BIC Superintendent meets with city officials
Buffalo Island Central superintendent Gaylon Taylor asked the mayors as well as council members of Monette, Leachville and Black Oak to meet with him Tuesday, May 26, at 7 p.m. to ask for their support for the district's building project.
The meeting held at the BIC East cafeteria in Leachville was informal.
City officials listened to Taylor and offered suggestions. Taylor began the meeting by saying with the millage failing two times BIC school district has only one more chance to bring it to voters. He said the next millage try is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 12 due to time constraints. Taylor explained BIC has 18 months from April 30, 2015, to pass a millage to pay its part of state partnership funds for the proposed project or it will have to turn back the up to $11 million that has been approved.
He then asked city leaders which option they were most in favor of. The consensus was the second option proposed that would place a K-6 grade facility in Leachville and 7-12 facility in Monette.
Taylor then opened the floor for comments and questions. Some felt the problem with millage elections was a trust issue because some citizens felt they were not getting all the information and thought the district was hiding something.
"I have nothing to hide," Taylor said. "If you ever don't understand something just ask. I have given all the information there is to give. We said from the beginning we were going to do this without hiding anything and we have. Some felt like we were when we closed the committee meetings to the media, but we did that to allow people to speak freely."
Some felt the 9 mills were too much. Taylor said the district from the beginning has said building all new facilities would not be possible without at least a 9 mill increase. He went on to say when the first option for a combined school failed the district came back with the second option which cut out preK and a few other things to allow for the building of two new facilities. Taylor said the only way to get the millage lower is to cut things the district was going to have to pay 100 percent of, like the new fine arts center (auditorium) that would seat 500 and an extra classroom.
He explained the state would only pay for a certain amount of square footage, which the district can not cut. Taylor said the only items that could be cut were the extras that allowed for growth and fine arts. If the district does away with 20,000 square feet and some other things the state would not pay for, the millage could go down to 7 mills, but that is the minimum.
"I could not be more honest with the people of these communities," Taylor said. "I could not put out more information that has already been put forth. We have to have the support of our city leaders to get this to move forward. I did not want to ask for a millage but I know the shape of our buildings and knew it needed to be done and we had deadlines that needed to be met."
Former school board member and alderman at Monette, Jason Stewart, pointed out to meeting attendees that the building projects and millage increase process had already been started when Taylor became superintendent.
"This process was started under George Ed Holland's administration," Stewart said. "We already had an architect hired and the process was already in motion. He came into a process that had already been started. Mr. Taylor is having to secure the funding but the process started with the previous administration."
Many city officials were surprised by this news because most thought the millage came about after Taylor became superintendent and not started before. Stewart said he couldn't imagine Monette, Leachville and Black Oak not taking advantage of almost $11 million to provide new facilities for students now and in the future. Alderman Bob Hurst echoed those remarks saying someone provided an education for him and his generation and it's time the same is done for children now.
Alderman Michael Webster suggested the district post the information in the committee packets to the school webpage so everyone can see what the committee that came up with the second proposal had to discuss. Taylor said he would consider that. He also said in the fall a state inspector will come to BIC to speak to the public about the state of the facilities.
It was also suggested if the school decides to go with the 7 mills and cut out some things that Taylor provide each city council and mayor a fact sheet of positives and negatives so city leaders can speak informatively about the issue.
Taylor went on to talk about the economic impact a $20 million dollar project would have on both communities saying construction crews would eat in town, get fuel from local gas stations and use local hardware stores. All those things would boost the economy of both communities.
Some aldermen spoke about the division in communities saying it is hard to get people to vote for the same project. Taylor asked city leaders to encourage citizens to put the division of towns aside and vote for what is best for the students in all three communities and the one school district that serves them all. He also spoke about the need for new technology and the outdated buildings that the state has said need to be replaced.
"The state will not pay for renovating 50 year old buildings," Taylor said. "The state would not have approved us for this money if they thought these buildings could be repaired."
Taylor said the state approved the funds to replace buildings after they were inspected, which is a part of the partnership funding.
During the course of the meeting the city leaders introduced themselves and some had never met each other or Taylor before and felt having attended the meeting allowed them to get to know fellow city officials. Most felt the 7 mill option would be more favorable and they had gotten needed information from the meeting.
Taylor said his plea was for city leaders to take back the information to their communities and show support for the school district. He also said he would take the suggestion from the meeting back to the school board for them to consider when they decide which option and the number of mills to bring back to voters.