Mississippi Co. residents to vote on millage increase

LUXORA, AR (KAIT) - Residents in South Mississippi County will vote on a millage increase proposed by the South Mississippi County School Board for a second time.

School board members said funds from the proposed millage increase would be used to build a new elementary school for students currently attending the Luxora, Wilson and Keiser Elementary schools.

Voters initially defeated the proposal last September.

Luxora Mayor Jasper Jackson hopes people will vote against the 4.8 mill increase a second time in the special election on February 14. "They took the high school, then they came back and they took the junior high. Now they're coming back for the babies' school."

South Mississippi County School Board superintendent Gary Masters said the new elementary school would be built as another addition to the Rivercrest School District campus at 1700 West State Highway 14 in Wilson, AR.  The campus currently houses seventh through twelfth grades.

Luxora and Keiser Elementary have declining student populations of approximately 100 students and 200 students who make up the kindergarten to fourth grade classes respectively, according to superintendent Masters. Masters says  that the schools the board wants to close are in need of expensive maintenance.

"There are needed repairs here on this (Luxora) campus which would include a major investment in heating and air conditioning," he said. "It would save in the neighborhood of $500,000 in maintenance and utilities to have the students in one location."

Superintendent Masters said the cost of transporting students would also decrease. "We have a lot of routes running buses to a lot of different campuses. If everyone were in one location the buses would all be coming to one location."

Mayor Jackson is concerned about the potential loss of jobs for school employees. "Once you don't have a school at all in a town, it seems to die."

Superintendent Masters said no one needs to worry about their jobs. "The board had assured at the vote that we had in September that there would be no loss of anyone's job."

The initial vote for the proposed millage increase in September included language about using the funds for transportation and athletic facilities in addition to building a new school.

Superintendent Masters said the new proposal only includes the new school.

The Arkansas Department of Education will share the cost of the project if residents vote for building the new school.

"There's been careful study done to arrive at this point where they're willing to pay $8.3 million to make this happen." Masters said the taxpayers would be responsible for paying for 35 percent of the project.

Masters wants to make sure voters understand what the department of education is offering.

"If we don't successfully take advantage of what the state is offering now, we may not see that opportunity again."

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