August 9, 2006--Posted at 5:40 p.m. CDT
HUGHES, AR--How much is it worth to voters in the Hughes School District to keep their school open? That's the question voters must consider after the district is asking for a 12 mill tax increase.
"We have a declining enrollment and a low millage and because of that the Arkansas State Board of Education has described us a district that is in fiscal distress," said Hughes School Superintendent Charles Jones.
In order to keep the classrooms open, the school district is asking patrons to approve a 12 mill tax increase to cover operation expenses and building improvements that are necessary to bring their buildings up to state regulations.
"We probably can make it a couple more years if we don't get the millage, but there is no way we can make it a long time without it," said Jones.
If the school is forced to close, the students would be dispersed between the Forrest City and West Memphis School Districts. In addition, it would be a major blow to the town of Hughes. Not only would they be losing their school, but they would also lose their largest employer.
"Most of the people feel the school is the center of the community and if we were to allow the school to be closed it would be like putting a nail in the coffin. I don't think we could overcome it," said Jones.
Currently, the Hughes School District has the third lowest millage rate in the state. Even if the millage increase isn't approved and the district is consolidated with West Memphis or Forrest City, voters still should expect to pay.
"Either way, the patrons are going to be in for an increase in taxes, because both of those districts have a higher millage rate than ours," said Jones.