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Cutter Morning Star School District's millage was easily the most significant increase in the state Tuesday as a wave of districts pursued millage measures for building projects.

The 8.4-mill increase is 40 percent higher than the next-highest measure to pass in Tuesday's annual school election. More than half the 21 districts pursuing millage increases were authorized by voters, but only one other measure seeking an increase of more than 5 mills was approved.

Poinsett County voters in the Marked Tree School District approved a 6-mill increase by a vote of 370-56, an 87-13 percent margin, for about $8.5 million in new projects throughout its campus. The district will receive more than $4.3 million from the state's Academic Facilities Partnership Program.

Sevier County voters in the De Queen School District approved a 4.9-mill increase to the state's lowest millage rate of 27.3 mills. All public school districts in Arkansas are required by law to maintain a minimum of 25 mills, known as the uniform rate of tax, for maintenance and operation.

The increase to 32.3 mills was approved by a vote of 832-541, a 60.6-39.4 margin, to fund more than $13 million of construction for a new high school. De Queen will receive $1.7 million in partnership funds.

Not only were Cutter Morning Star's increase and project among the most significant in the state, but the district will also receive a sizable contribution from the Partnership Program. The district's measure included an extension of 15.5 existing mills for an additional 12 years and passed with almost 60 percent of the 302-208 vote.

The new investment of almost $19.2 million, according to current property values, from the district's residents will include more than $10 million toward about $18 million in planned construction and improvement projects on campus. The district will receive more than $7.8 million, including $6.255 million toward the construction of a new high school and basketball arena for almost $14.5 million.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson charged the state's Advisory Committee on Public School Academic Facilities in July with recommending changes to the funding process for the construction and improvement of school facilities. He said the state cannot sustain its average investment of $100 million each year in the program.

The state will provide about $11 million to the Berryville School District in Carroll County after voters approved a 4.45-mill increase for a $24 million construction project. The measure passed by a vote of 544-457.

Other large proposals to fail included a request for 7.1 new mills by the Valley Springs School District in Boone County for the construction of a new high school, 223-237; 5.7 mills for the Vilonia School District in Faulkner County for a construction project and renovations, 719-1,122; 4.65 requested mills for the Star City School District in Lincoln County to build a new high school, 373-627; and a request for 4 new mills by the Greene County Tech School District for maintenance, operation and debt service, 462-836.

Garland County was one of only two counties with more than one millage proposal on Tuesday's ballots. The Mountain Pine School District went to voters with the smallest request among millage measures in the state.

Voters approved 2 new debt service mills for the district and an extension of 12.9 existing mills for nine more years to construct an agriculture center and a safe room. The measure was approved by a vote of 189-120.

Neither project will be funded by any partnership support. Schools often partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build safe rooms on campuses, but funding is not available from the agency at this time.

The projects are estimated to cost a combined $2.345 million. The increase will also allow the district to issue $6.335 million in new bonds and refund all of its outstanding bond indebtedness.

Poinsett County's other millage measure included an annual option for Harrisburg School District voters to increase their rate by 4.4 mills to equalize it with the rate of the former Weiner School District, which consolidated into Harrisburg in 2011. The measure failed again by a vote of 64-211.

The Trumann School District in Poinsett County also asked voters to approve a construction plan, but it did not include a millage increase. Voters approved a proposal to refinance existing bonds to build a new football stadium and field house.

The Malvern School District in Hot Spring County saw its request for 3.49 new mills approved by a vote of 629-189 for expansive renovations to Malvern High School. The total project is estimated to cost about $12 million with about $5 million provided by the state partnership program.

Cutter Morning Star, Mountain Pine and Malvern join a list of districts who found success in their millage requests during the annual school election in recent years. A new state law will change the standard dates for school elections. Districts will now have the option to align their elections with primaries in the spring or the general election in November.

Local on 09/24/2017

Print Headline: CMS leads state millage projects

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