Berryville School District to seek 6.5 millage hike

Monday, July 17, 2006

BERRYVILLE -- The Berryville Board of Education voted Tuesday night to ask its patrons for a 6.50 millage increase when they go to the polls in September to cover the cost of facility improvements.

Those improvements include constructing and equipping a new 3-5 building, a fine arts building, a high school physical education facility, a multi-purpose building, a K-2 physical education facility, a concession/restroom facility, a bus garage/maintenance facility, and refurbishing, remodeling and equipping existing school facilities.

The total project cost is estimated by architects at $19.6 million, of which the state is willing to pay $6.5 million.

The 6.50 mil increase is expected to generate the difference of $13 million.

Superintendent Mike Cox said state officials offered to pay 50 percent of the project -- but only 50 percent of what they think it should cost, not the architect's estimate.

He said he believed the architect's estimate was "more accurate" than that of the state and that state officials hope to have the architect "do more work and get the prices down."

Before the vote was taken, Cox offered three proposals for the board to consider: no new millage; a 4.75 mil increase to generate $9.5 million; and the 6.5 mil request to generate $13 million.

The no mil option, he explained, would allow the board to ask its patrons for a mil hike next spring when it would be the only item on the ballot.

"The ballot will be full in the fall with five (board) positions possible," he said, "and I don't want it to be an issue with board elections. Also, people will be paying their tax bills at that time.

"I don't ever want to ask," he continued, "but March would be a better time with the millage request the only thing on the ballot."

"I don't think it will be well perceived anytime," countered board member Vonda Bailey.

Cox said the board was required to make a decision that night, explaining that it must adopt a 2007-08 budget and publish it several times by a certain date to meet the state mandate.

He said the figures didn't matter much, basically "last year's budget plus 10 percent," but if there was to be a millage request, it must be included.

The other options, he said, included a 4.75 mil increase that would generate $9.5 million, enough to construct and equip all the projects except the multi-purpose building and bus garage/maintenance facility.

The final option of 6.5 mils would generate $13 million, enough to complete all the projects.

Board member Gordon Hale objected to the March election, saying if the millage was voted down, the board couldn't ask again until 2008 because it can only conduct one election per year. However, if it were placed on the September ballot and voted down, the board could ask again in March.

Board member Jack Newberry concurred, saying, "With that many (people) on the ballot, there will be a good turnout, and it will give us two shots at it," referring to the September and March election possibilities.

Board members also discussed millage option amounts, and were told by Cox that the 4.75 increase would bring the district's total mils to 36.3, which was "about average in the state."

Board President Deretha Walker said, "I'm leaning toward the full package. If it doesn't pass, we have next spring to ask again."

With that, Hale made a motion to accept the budget with the 6.5 mil increase. It passed unanimously by those present. Board members Keith Butler and Sam Eaves were absent.

Resignations accepted at the meeting included those from: high school French and English teacher Cathy Head; third grade teacher Jodi Price; and cafeteria worker Paula McIntosh.

Hired were: third grade teacher Brandy Lovell; first grade teacher Janice Funk; middle school CBI and special education instructor Sharon Davis; assistant football and head soccer coach Don Earnest; high school English and journalism teacher Annette Cormack; Title I aide Wanda Warren; and, bus drivers James Tabor and Warren Rainwater.

Transferred was teacher Sue Crain, from first to third grade.

Bread, fuel and printing bids were accepted with Sara Lee coming in as low bidder in the breads department, Walker Sales earning the contact another year with its low bid for gas and diesel fuel, and Space beating out Braswell Printing for the printing of student handbooks.

Vonda Bailey was elected to serve as school board secretary following the resignation of former secretary and board member Jerl Swofford last month.

Wade Hill was appointed to fill Swofford's Zone 2 slot until the September election. It was noted that Hill may seek a permanent seat on the board.

The filing period for school board seats began June 21 and ends Aug. 5.

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