LEACHVILLE, AR (KAIT)
Residents packed East Elementary's cafeteria in Leachville Thursday night to learn more about the proposed millage increase.
Buffalo Island School District administrators, teachers and students gave firsthand accounts of how the millage increase could better both Leachville and Monette.
"We're just trying to convey the facts for people to make a decision," BIC Superintendent Gaylon Taylor said.
The proposed millage increase would fund a $19.5 million school that would combine the school district's four campuses into one Pre-K through 12th grade school.The proposed nine mill increase would last 30 years.
"This is the most cost effective means providing the best education for our kids, not only for today, but also the future," Taylor said.
The new school would also have something this district has never had: a tornado safe room. Taylor said every other school district within a 60 mile radius has one.
"They [our schools] were not built for tornadoes," Taylor said.
He said that brings up another issue: the buildings on all four campuses are at least 50 years old, which affects both teachers and students. For example, the gyms have no central air.
"To anyone who is planning to vote 'no,' before the voting day, I invite you to come practice with me in the Leachville gym," one student said during the meeting.
Superintendent Taylor said the new school would change that and it would also be in a more convenient location: equidistant from Leachville and Monette.
"Exactly at the Mississippi Craighead county lines on Highway 18," Taylor said.
Teachers and administrators at the meeting said this will decrease driving time for those who live in one city but teach in the other.
"Having to drive from one city to the other means that's 30 minutes I lose teaching," one teacher said.
"We're losing opportunities to teach kids," Taylor said. "Yet that's what we're in the business for: to teach kids."
However, opponents are against the millage increase because many are on a fixed income and do not want to see higher taxes. One man said he loves kids, but encourages the millage increase supporters to also think about the older community. He said many people must already choose between groceries or their medicine, and higher taxes would make it even more difficult to survive.
But Taylor said the district cannot survive on the current millage rate, 33 mills, which is the lowest in Craighead County. If residents pass the millage increase after a vote on Sept. 16, BIC would have one of the highest rates in the county.
"We are the people in charge of our kids," one teacher said. "Can you look them in the eye and say you're not worth it?"
Teachers and administrators argue this millage increase is an opportunity to unite a community.
"Thirty years ago, we were founded upon two communities coming together to make the best decision for kids," Taylor said. "That's the same thing I ask for today."
BIC administrators will hold a third meeting in Monette Sept. 2 at 7 p.m.