Manila School Board hears millage increase finance options

Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Dan Lovelady with Beardsley Public Finance addressed Manila School Board.

Dan Lovelady with Beardsley Public Finance addressed the Manila School Board on Monday, May 25, presenting the financial options for the proposed millage increase of 4.7 new mills and extending the present 11.7 mills to 2045. He said with the refunding of the debt the district will get the maximum benefit of the debt on the books allowing to ask for the least amount of increase. The additional mills will provide $6,525,000 available for a construction project.

He requested motions to apply to the State Department of Education to issue bonds, to hire Beardsley Public Finance as financial adviser and adopt a proposed budget of expenditures beginning July 2016 through June 30, 2017.

Board member Tommy Wagner asked if the legislature increases the 25 mill uniformed rate of tax, would that amount be on top of that?

Lovelady said he could not see it happening but if it did, it would be additional.

Wagner asked if the board is locked in on building on site or off site with the partnership funds.

Lovelady said it doesn't matter if it is on site or off site. If the millage does not pass the school will not be awarded the partnership money.

The school has been awarded $14,029,718.01 in partnership funding. The District will need to raise $6,520,478.80 for its part.

Wagner said he had heard complaints from citizens saying they did not know what was going on.

The proposed millage increase has failed twice at the polls.

"On the first vote we did not have a site and on the second one we were not sure of the partnership funding," Board member Tracey Reinhart said. "Now we do."

Board member Danny Robbins said he has had over 100 people say they are happy the board is listening to them about building a new high school on campus.

"I agree we need a new school," Board member Dean Tucker said. "We can make it happen on this campus, but is that the right decision looking 25 to 30 years ahead. It can be worse to move forward and not do it correctly."

Wagner asked how many millage proposals failed in the state this year.

"I am sure some that did not pass had unified boards," Wagner said. "We are not unified. I feel like we should have a public forum and ask the people what they want, follow it with a meeting and then make a decision."

Wagner said there may be more ways than one to raise the $6.5 million.

Robbins made a motion to proceed with the millage proposal.

Wagner made a substitute motion to hold a public forum followed by a special called board meeting and then make the decision. Wagner's motion was seconded by Tucker.

Board member Brandon Veach said all board meetings are public.

"The public with their vote stated they did not understand it yet," Tucker said. "That is why I seconded the motion."

Veach said the reason the millage was voted down is a matter of opinion. He said, "some did not want the campus split, some don't want more taxes, there are a number of reasons."

"Last time we showed up, it was decided to move back on campus," Wagner said. "Not one thing has been in the newspaper for three years about it building here."

"We made that decision and it was in the paper last month and no one is here to let us know they don't like it," Reinhart said.

A roll call vote was taken on the substitute motion made by Wagner with Wagner and Tucker voting yes; and Robbins, Reinhart, Johnny McCain, Veach, and Jeremy Jackson voting no.

On Robbins motion to proceed with the millage application the vote was 5-2 with Wagner and Tucker voting no; and Robbins, Reinhart, McCain, Veach, and Jackson voting yes.

Superintendent Pam Castor recommended bonuses for employees for the 2014-2015 school year with $800 for certified; $400 for classified; $400 bus drivers and $200 for part-time employees.

Caster explained if the legislature passes a mandated increase to the base salary schedule, it could mean the district will have to add a higher percentage of the insurance. She recommended the bonuses until the final decision is made.

"Will we look at adding to the salaries after the rules are written?" Wagner asked.

Castor said it will depend on if enrollment is up and everything looks the same financially.

Veach made the motion seconded by McCain to give bonuses which passed 6-1 with Reinhart voting no.

Castor distributed copies of proposed policies for the 2015-2016 school year for the board to review. She said they will act on the policies at the next meeting.

Castor informed the board all of the buildings and the district have been accredited.

Following an exeuctive session, the board, on the recommendation of Castor, accepted the resignation of Lora Ellis, aide; Mackenzie Onnen, nurse; and Jason Belcher, coach/teacher.

The board voted unanimously to hire Frances Street as English teacher and Kevin Youngblood as baeball coach, assistant football coach and teacher.

The board commended the softball girls for a good year. They also expressed their appreciation to all of the principals. Middle school received an A on the state report card and the high school missed it by less than one point.

Board member Wagner asked the board to allocate extra funding needed to clean up around the entrance to the middle school. He said tires around trees and items stacked on the fences need to be cleaned up.

"It is the first impression people get of the campus," Wagner said. "We have the top middle school in the county. Maybe we can put some money into it this summer for clean-up and landscaping. We know the benefits of our school, visitors only know what they see."

Tucker talked about the industrial projects underway commenting people will be coming to this area.

"There are 250-300 workers now and it will be going up to over 2,000 with the Big River project and other surrounding projects," Tucker said. "It is the largest project in the state of Arkansas."

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