Cedar Ridge considering millage increase for extra campus security

NEWARK, AR (KAIT) –Many schools are trying to figure out how to better protect their students in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy and other recent shootings.

The Cedar Ridge School District in Newark has proposed hiring additional security, a move that is anything but cheap.

That's why administrators have recommended raising the amount people pay in property taxes so that the district can collect new revenue to step up its security system.

Dr. Ann Webb intended to raise the local millage rate only once during her time as Cedar Ridge superintendent, but she would like to do it again to better protect her students.

"I never dreamed I would be sitting there talking about safety and security and a school shooting either, but times are changing," Dr. Webb said. "We need to step up so that we can take care of our children."

Dr. Webb would like the district to hire two full-time school resource officers, which she says would require raising one additional mill.

According to the most recent figures from the Arkansas Department of Education, the total millage in the Cedar Ridge School District is currently at 38.20, the lowest in Independence County.

The state education department reports that the Southside School District has the highest number of mills (40.20), followed by Batesville (38.75) and Midland (38.30).

Adding an additional mill to Cedar Ridge would bring its total to 39.20.

"One [extra] mill will generate approximately $142,000," Dr. Webb said.

That amount of revenue would cover the cost of salary and equipment for two officers, an annual expense estimated at more than $52,000 each.

Dr. Webb plans to station one officer at the main campus in Newark and place the other permanently at the isolated elementary school in Cord-Charlotte.

"I would feel more comfortable if there was a full-time resource officer there [in Cord-Charlotte]," she said, "and then we would share a resource officer on this campus [in Newark]."

The district currently employs a part-time resource officer, who also patrols the community of Newark and assists the Independence County Sheriff's Office when needed.

Dr. Webb says the district can hire him now full-time without a millage increase, but the additional revenue she is requesting would help fund other safety measures like the installation of extra security cameras and panic buttons.

The Cedar Ridge school board will decide if a special election is needed to vote on the millage increase.

Their decision was not immediately clear, as board members voted on that issue Tuesday evening during a regularly scheduled meeting.

They also discussed their interest in providing stipends to teachers that would like to train as reserved police officers and carry guns on campus.

"I do support it at this time," Dr. Webb said, "because I think that's what it's going to take to keep our students safe and secure."

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