Jeremy Jackson, chairperson for the community committee for the Manila School District millage increase, presented facts and opened the floor for discussion at the Thursday night public meeting.
A small group gathered in the third and fourth grade school building, one of two buildings housing Manila kindergarten through fourth grades. The buildings were built in 1961 and will be replaced if the proposed 5.6 millage increase is approved by voters on Sept. 16.
Jackson asked the guests to look around the building.
"The teachers and staff do a good job with the building, but the blocks you see is all there is," Jackson said. "The classroom walls and outside walls are paneling. It is not the safest place for our children to be in bad weather. When the buildings were constructed there was no air conditioning or computers. The individual rooms have air conditioners standing and they are loud. The buildings have wiring and plumbing problems. The plumbing problems are under the foundation."
Jackson presented a slide presentation showing some of the problems in the nearly 50 year old buildings.
He presented the facts of the millage increase informing the group of the fall election Sept. 16. The District is requesting 5.6 new debt service mills through 2028. The new total millage rate will be 36.7, very close to the state average of 36.25 mills. The 6.1 existing debt mills are being requested to be extended through 2028, which is 13 years beyond the current commitment.
The $4,385,000 refunding and construction bond issue will be used for refunding the outstanding bond issue dated Nov. 1, 2003; erecting and equipping a new K-4 facility; and any remaining funds will be used for refurbishing, remodeling, and equipping existing school facilities.
Jackson pointed out there is a real need.
"I have been asked what happens if the millage does not pass," Jackson said. "The state will be notified and it will request another special election. There are several avenues they can take. If our facilities are not up to code, the District can be placed in facility distress. The state could loan the money for the building project and in return they can cut out all extra curricular activities until the money is paid back. That would include our sports and other activities.
"Another possibility is the state can take over our school and relieve our local school board and superintendent. We would have no local input on our school. The worst scenario would be forced consolidation.
"If we can take care of our own school district and our own facilities, we are less likely to be forced into consolidation."
Jackson presented a chart showing how much the proposed millage would increase individual's real estate taxes.
"If property is valued at $25,000 the increase will only be $28 a year or $2.33 a month," Jackson said. "On the high side, if property is valued at $150,000, the increase would be $168 a year or $14 a month. I've heard people say it is just another tax. Of all the taxes we pay, how much do we see right here at home. This is a tax that will not go into a tax fund in Little Rock or Washington, D.C. Yes, we will be paying a little more in taxes, but look what we are going to get for it."
Jackson said Manila is a great place to live.
"I went to school here, my kids are going to school here and as the school goes, so will the town," Jackson said.
Jackson said a lot of people think football too costly, but it was done through a lot of donations and hard work.
"The people who wanted it (football) fought long and hard to get it," Jackson said. "Hopefully, they will fight for this new building and we will be able to continue with Manila's growth," Jackson said.
He encouraged everyone to go out, present the facts and share the information on what the millage will do for the school and community.
Jackson asked for questions or comments.
"In talking to people we have to stress we can't put a price tag on the safety of our children," Dan Robbins said. "The cost is less than 50 cents a day."
Other comments included:
*"A new facility would be a much safer building in case of bad weather. Parents can know their children are as safe as possible."
*"Most new people move to Manila because of the school. If we lose our school, what happens to our town?"
*"When will construction start?" (Planning will begin in the spring. It must be approved by the state. If approved it will be under a deadline and construction could start approximately one year from now.)