School Board Says Yes To Millage Campaign

Voters asked to approve 2.75 mill increase in September

— Voters in the Fayetteville School District will be asked to approve a 2.75-mill increase in property taxes to complete an expanded Fayetteville High School.

The unanimous vote at a special meeting today allows the district to take advantage of interest-free Qualified School Construction Bonds. The state recently approved Fayetteville to receive $31.5 million in bonds issued under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, often referred to as the federal government’s stimulus bill. The district will save some $29 million in interest costs and other fees during the 15- to 17-year life of the bonds as compared to financing the project through traditional interest-bearing bonds. The interest-free bonds are only available this year.

The election will be Sept. 21.

If approved, homeowners will pay an additional $4.58 a month in property taxes for each $100,000 of a home’s value, starting in 2011.

The funding package will also include issuance of $19 million in traditional second-lien bonds. Combined with the interest-free bonds, the plan will provide the additional $50 million needed to complete the high school expansion project.

Architects Jim French of DLR Group of Overland Park, Kan., and Marlon Blackwell of Marlong Blackwell Architect in Fayetteville detailed to the school board what will be included in the second phase of construction.

When completed, patrons will see a high school transformed from its current look to a new high school, French said.

“This thing will look brand new when completed,” he said. “You’re building on your history.”

Phase two of the project will essentially be three stories of academic areas, using much of the existing classroom space on the north side of the school, where the entrance is today on Stone Street.

Phase one, now under way, consists primarily of a new performing arts center, gymnasium and cafeteria areas, a new main office and an entrance from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Phase one also includes the demolition of the Bates Annex. New classroom space for vocational programs also will be in phase one, which will financed by a $2.5 million budget reduction over the next 15 years.

Superintendent Vicki Thomas said cost benefits, educational opportunities for students and “the promise we have made to the community to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars” prompted her recommendation to seek an additional 2.75 mills.

The district’s current tax rate is 42.9 mills. A mill is one-tenth of a cent, generating $1 of property taxes for every $1,000 of assessed value. In Arkansas, property is assessed at 20 percent of its appraised value, and the assessment is multiplied by the millage rate to determine the tax.

Board member Tim Hudson said the financing plan for the second phase, especially the interest free bonds, was “far too attractive a financing package” to not consider.

If the additional millage is approved, the construction schedule may move up the timing for completing the school, said Phil Jones of Nabholz Construction, the construction manager for the project. Phase one is to be completed by the start of school in 2013, and phase two could be completed by the middle of the 2014-15 school year.


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Fayetteville High School Construction

Keep up to date on construction at Fayetteville High School on a new Web page devoted to the first phase of construction, including razing the old Bates Elementary School later this month. Construction fences will go up before school starts Aug. 19. Read about the project at