District officials discuss millage revote

“The community of Springdale always has supported education. This isn’t about one school or the other, nor is it about one side of town or the other. All students at our 24 schools are Springdale kids. It shouldn’t matter which schools or side of town benefit,” said Springdale School District Director of Communications, Rick Schaeffer.
Money plays a factor in the need for a re-vote on the millage. And the Springdale School District stands to lose $16 million if another vote on the millage increase doesn’t happen.
On Sept. 21, the city of Springdale denied a millage increase that would have called for a new middle school, junior high, athletic facilities at Har-Ber, and improvements at Jarrell Williams Stadium.
The athletic facilities at Har-Ber were to include a football stadium, indoor practice facility, track, tennis courts, and practice fields for baseball, softball, and soccer. All of those things totaling $69 million.
The $16 million is money the Arkansas State Department of Education is willing to give to the district to spend on building new schools.
The funds were set to expire January 31, 2011 if building plans for the new schools were not ready, On Nov. 1, the district received word from the state department that their request for an extension had been granted.
Due to the millage not passing in September, the district needed more time to come up with the rest of the money to build the two schools, an estimated total cost of $54 million.
The original vote on Sept. 21 was 56% No, and 44% Yes. It wasn’t promoted very much, and that could be a reason the vote didn’t pass.
“Our campaign was low-key by design, several respected people advised us to handle it that way,” Schaeffer said.
Some didn’t quite understand the entirety of the vote.
“Many citizens have told members of our school board and district administration that they did not understand all the variables of the millage,” said Schaeffer.
“79% of the millage is going to schools. The problem is that the athletics (only 21% go to athletics) was the thing that got the most pub,” said Robert Crossland, a Springdale native.
Prior to the meeting Nov. 1, Schaeffer believed something is going to have to change if another vote is going to occur.
“We are attempting to discover all factors that led to votes against the Sept. 21 millage. We do know the middle school and junior high will be necessary in the very near future,” Schaeffer said.
Fayetteville recently had a millage as well, and Fayetteville’s millage passed.
Fayetteville’s vote contained a ‘sunset clause’, which states that the taxing of the extra mills will end in 15 years.
“The length of Springdale’s millage was going to be for 30 years,” said Crossland. “That’s saying we won’t need renovations over the next 30 years, which isn’t true, because we will.”
The new middle school would be near the new elementary school under construction at Sonora Road and Highway 412, an the junior high would be built on land on Hylton Road.
“If we bring a second millage to the vote of the people, we must have a proposal that will pass,” said Schaeffer.
As for the athletics portion of the millage, the total cost is $15 million. The school district feels the athletics portion was being overemphasized by the millage’s opponents.
“Only 21% of the funding would have gone to athletic facilities at Har-Ber and an upgrade of Jarrell Williams Stadium. Athletics, as any extracurricular activities, are vital to the well rounded education of a large number of students,” said Schaeffer.
The athletics portion of the millage would have been very beneficial for not only athletes, but the city of Springdale as a whole.
“If Har-Ber had a football stadium and indoor workout facility, it has been estimated that roughly 50% of the students population would utilize one or both during the course of the academic year. A track not only would be utilized by students but also would be made available for public use,” Schaeffer said.
Another thing the opponents of the millage are saying is that they are upset with the way the Springdale School District has spent money in the past.
“They’re going to be adding a C-Wing to Springdale High School. Instead of spending money on the ‘Taj Mahal’, they could have used that money to build Har-Ber athletic facilities,” Crossland said.
The decision on whether another vote on the millage will happen, will occur at a Springdale School District board meeting on Nov. 9.