Manila millage increase to be on the ballot

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Manila School District is asking voters for a millage increase in the upcoming school election Sept. 16 to construct an elementary building. The new building will replace the round buildings which were constructed in 1961.

The K-4 buildings at Manila elementary are nearing 50 years old and have electrical and plumbing problems. According to estimates, it would cost more in renovations to bring the facilities up to code than new construction. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

Jeremy Jackson is the chairperson of the community committee for the millage increase.

"A new building for elementary students is really needed," Jackson said. "The old round buildings are not far from being 50 years old. We need a new modern facility for the elementary aged kids of Manila."

Jackson went on to say the existing buildings were built before schools were air conditioned or computers were in the classrooms.

"The electrical systems just cannot handle all the technology our children need," Jackson said. "In addition to the electrical issues, the plumbing lines which run under the foundation are deteriorating. The exterior walls of the round buildings are Masonite paneling. This does not provide the protection needed in case of strong storms or tornados.

"It is time for our community to provide our children with the best and safest buildings we can."

The millage increase of 5.6 mills would add $112 to the property tax bill of homeowners with a $100,000 home.

"For many homeowners in town the annual increase they would pay is less than one tank of gas," Jackson said.

For an appraised real estate value of $25,000 the annual increase will be $28 or $2.33 a month; $50,000 appraisal would be $56 a year for only $4.67 a month.

Jackson pointed out the millage increase will put Manila at 36.7 mills, right at the state average which is 36.25 mills.

"I understand, none of us like more taxes but for $6 to $20 a month we will be making an investment in not only our children's future but our town's future," Jackson said. "There are many new families who have moved to this town because of our school. The school also brings former Manila residents back. Our town's growth depends on our school. It is important for all of us to look at all the facts."

Jackson said continued failure to pass the millage could lead to Manila School District being classified in facilities distress by the Arkansas Department of Education Division of Facilities and Transportation.

"Probably, like many others, I was not aware of the consequences of a school classified in facilities distress," Jackson said. "When a millage for school buildings fails, schools must report to the Arkansas Division of Facilities and Transportation in Little Rock to discuss the building issues.

"The State Division has the power to require schools to have a special election, or to require schools to cancel all sports and other extracurricular activities until the building project costs are paid. The State Division may classify the school district as being in facilities distress. In cases where districts stay in facilities distress for two years, the school district can be taken over by the state or combined with another school district by the State Board of Education."

Jackson said there will be a public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the school cafeteria. He encourages citizens to hear the facts and become informed before voting. There will be a question and answer session.

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