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BENTONVILLE -- School District administrators presented a plan Thursday to build six schools over the next 10 years, something they said could be paid for through a combination of refinancing and a 1.7-mill tax increase.

That tax proposal could come before voters as soon as next spring if the School Board follows the administrators' recommendation.

Building Plans

Here are Bentonville School District administrators’ preliminary plans for construction:

• 2017: Open Osage Creek Elementary School and Creekside Middle School

• 2019: Open a 12th elementary school

• 2020: Open a fourth junior high school

• 2022: Open a 13th elementary school and sixth middle school

• 2024: Open a 14th elementary school

• 2025: Open a third high school

Source: Bentonville School District

Board members likely will decide at their Nov. 14 meeting whether to pursue the plan administrators presented to them during a two-hour work session Thursday.

School districts are allowed one millage vote per year. Superintendent Debbie Jones said the board could go with either a spring or fall millage election next year. Spring would be preferable, she said.

"Going in the spring, we already have a lot of our communication systems set up," Jones said. "We know PTO presidents. It's easier for the schools to communicate that message now rather than September when they're starting school."

If voters approve the 1.7-mill tax increase administrators are recommending, it would push the district's overall millage rate to 48.3. Assuming no changes in other districts' rates, that would raise Bentonville's rate to a tie with North Little Rock for second-highest in Arkansas.

If all goes as planned, however, such an increase should be the last one the district needs for the next decade, finance director Janet Schwanhausser said.

Administrators have spent the past few months working on a 10-year plan that forecasts the district's enrollment growth, finances and facility needs.

Their calculations showed a need for three elementary schools and one middle school, junior high school and high school by 2025, they said.

That's in addition to Osage Creek Elementary School and Creekside Middle School, which are under construction and expected to open next year. The district is paying for those buildings with money set aside each year toward second-lien debt payments. No tax increase was required.

The district, which just opened its second high school, projects needing to open its third high school by 2025.

Bentonville's enrollment grew by about 3.5 percent this year, bringing its total to 16,623 students. Officials project enrollment will surpass 20,000 in six years, according to district documents.

Their determinations of when each new school building should be built was based on the year enrollment at a particular level -- elementary, middle, junior high and high school -- is expected to reach 90 percent of capacity.

The facilities plan includes not only construction, but taking care of specific maintenance projects at schools, such as new roofs and upgrades to heating and cooling systems.

A new and larger warehouse, a longtime need for the district, is also built into the facilities plan at an estimated cost of $5.5 million.

The administration's request for a tax increase would supplement additional money that would come from refinancing 2010 and 2013 series bonds.

Schwanhausser also provided the board financial projections if the board opted to ask for 1.5 additional mills or 1.9 mills. She concluded 1.9 mills was more than what the district needs.

Schwanhausser said the financial plan hinges in large part on what becomes of assessed values in the district. Current estimates are the assessed values will take a huge leap of nearly 10 percent this year over last, but the exact figure won't become official until January, she said.

NW News on 10/21/2016

Print Headline: Bentonville School District maps out facility plan

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