Spirit of JacksonvilleREAD ONLINE
Heber Springs voters approve millage increase by a slim marginOriginally Published September 22, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 20, 2013 at 2:19 p.m.
HEBER SPRINGS — Voters approved the millage-increase request of the Heber Springs Public School District in Tuesday’s school election. Heber Springs squeaked by with a 20-vote margin.
Heber Springs Superintendent Russell Hester said his headache on Wednesday was not nearly as big as the one he had Tuesday.
Tuesday night’s election was a nail-biter, with the proposal for a 3.4-mill property-tax increase passing by just 20 votes, 591 to 571.
“We felt pretty confident because I don’t think anybody ever organized a campaign that was negative, that was outright against it,” Hester said.
“Everybody had to weigh their own personal commitments about the amount of money,” he said. “I don’t think anybody questioned the commitment for the kids; it was could they afford it?”
The increase will mean an extra $68 a year in property taxes on a home assessed at $100,000.
“We have a really, really good school board that I think our community supports 100 percent,” Hester said. “We just haven’t had anything negative that goes on. We just wish we had a little bit more money in the bank and better facilities.
“Those things will take care of themselves in the next couple of years.”
The property-tax increase will fund $12 million in improvements, including a performing-arts complex, the No. 1 priority, Hester said. It will include a 1,000-seat auditorium.
The band building is crowded, and instruments are stored in various locations, he said. Also, choir and drama students will utilize the new building.
Security measures are also part of the proposal, Hester said, including rearranging entrances to the school and expanding the cafeteria.
He said the cafeteria was built to hold about 200 students comfortably, but enrollment is 525 students in grades nine through 12.
Also needed is an occupational- and physical-therapy building. Those programs are now housed in a portable trailer.
The superintendent said he plans to sit down with Crews & Associations of Little Rock “and make sure we have everything organized to go for a bond sale. Our opinion is, the sooner you can get to the front of the line selling bonds, the better it is.”
He said the first step will be to get with the financial advisers to get the paperwork completed, look at interest rates and sell the bonds.
“The next step is to give the architect an OK to start bearing down on their drawings and their plans,” he said.
The 1,000-seat auditorium, “from the time you turn dirt to the time you finish,” will take about 1 1/2 years, Hester said.
Plans have to be approved by the Arkansas Department of Education, and bids must be obtained.
“It’d be nice if we could start late summer, early fall,” he said.
Hester said he thinks the auditorium will be a great addition to the community.
“Our community is such a growing and good community, the auditorium, we feel, is really going to benefit our town because there’s nowhere to bring in entertainers and gather.
“It’s not the Heber Springs School District building — because the people pay for it and help us build it, so we’re going to try to be good neighbors [and share it]. We want them to feel like they have some input in that and that they have some ownership in that.”
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or email@example.com.