Batesville schools also seeking millage increase for additional - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Batesville schools also seeking millage increase for additional security

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BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Cedar Ridge is not the only school district in Independence County seeking a tax hike to step up security.

Batesville Public Schools are also asking voters to approve a millage increase during a special election.

The Batesville school board decided this week to ask voters to pass a 1.25 increase to its millage on April 9.

If approved administrators plan to use the extra funds for several security projects, including placing a trained, armed officer at every campus.

Three resource officers currently work for the district, but administrators would now like to hire four more so that an officer is stationed at each of its eight schools.

Superintendent Dr. Randy Willison says the district can do that only if people are willing to pay more property taxes.

"We currently have a tax rate of 38.75 mills," Dr. Willison said. "We're requesting an increase of 1.25 mills to make it an even 40, and the purpose of those mills is to generate funds to make our school safer and more secure."

School board members gave Dr. Willison permission Tuesday to hold the special election in April, when voters will decide if they are willing to pay the extra mills.

"The one mill would be used to generate about $236,000 annually for the purpose of paying the cost associated with having resource officers at every single campus," he said.

The additional 0.25 mill would pay for added security measures.

Those include creating new key access, adding sensors to every door and window, upgrading camera systems, installing a buzz-in system, putting up security fencing and other upgrades.

Dr. Willison says the 0.25 mill would generate $60,000 each year to pay off long-term bonds. The bond sales would also provide a one-time payment of more than $630,000 to cover the costs of the aforementioned projects.

"It's certainly going to make a difference," Dr. Willison added. "It's going to make us more safe."

That message is one he now hopes to spread to voters.

He says people will have to ask themselves if this tax increase is worth the extra cost.

"The way we have it calculated," Dr.Willison said, "a 1.25 mill increase to our taxes will have an impact on a property owner of about $2.50 annually for every $10,000 of their home's value, their property's value."

He says if voters approve the millage increase on April 9, the school could begin collecting funds in May.

That would allow the district to make most of the security upgrades over the summer before students start a new school year.

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