Batesville schools also seeking millage increase for additional security

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

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

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

If approved administrators plan to use the extra funds forseveral security projects, including placing a trained, armed officer at everycampus.

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

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

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

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

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

The additional 0.25 mill would pay for added securitymeasures.

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

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

"It's certainly going to make a difference," Dr. Willisonadded. "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 taxincrease is worth the extra cost.

"The way we have it calculated," Dr.Willison said, "a 1.25mill increase to our taxes will have an impact on a property owner of about $2.50annually 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 securityupgrades over the summer before students start a new school year.

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