Region 8 Community Suffering Growing Pains

July 14, 2006 - Posted at 5:42 p.m. CDT

MARION, AR -- Crittenden County continues to see new construction projects popping up at a rapid pace.  This new growth is a result of a number of residents relocating from across the Mississippi River to towns like Marion.

One of the fastest growing areas in the state, Marion is developing with major industries like the Hino Motors Plant and the development is expected to continue.

"We have two major interstates, two major railroads, Federal Express Short Drive and the Port of West Memphis," said Marion Mayor Frank Fogleman, "Geographically from a logistical and transportation standpoint, it is a great place to be."

But Marion's growth has led to some growing pains. The school district is now the state's 21st largest with over 3800 students and is in desperate need for a new $28 million dollar middle school to alleviate overcrowding.

"The state has agreed to fund us up to $11.5 million," said Marion Superintendent Dan Shepherd, "That means we have to raise the balance of $17 million in property tax increases."

A property tax that will go before voters in about two months.

"For us to build the school, we are asking voters to pass a six mill increase at the September 19th election," said Shepherd.

The school district is long overdue for new facilities.  Last year the school competed in the smallest gym in the AAAA division. This year the facilities will be even more inadequate as the school will move into the AAAAAA category.

"It served us very well for 15 plus years, but with the economic development that's been happening the last five or six years, the schools have been getting over crowded," said Shepherd.

The six mill increase would mean around $120 of additional property tax on a $100,000 dollar home.  The district does not have a contingency plan and will continue to ask the district for the increase if the millage doesn't pass in September.