Weighing the options: BV community members discuss school construction

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"All I'm hearing is bickering about 20 bucks. All I'm hearing is bickering over an old building," school board member Chad Hipps said Thursday night at a community meeting concerning the Berryville School District's proposed construction plans. "I don't hear any talk about our children."

Several community members at the meeting agreed.

At the end of the meeting, many people raised their hands to indicate they would vote for a millage increase to pay for the construction. A millage increase would prevent the district from tearing down the high school building, a key part of the district's original construction plan.

The original plan involves building a new middle school for grades 5-8, moving high school students into the current middle school building and tearing down the high school building to build a performing arts center. This option would cost $18.4 million, with $8.9 million coming from the state and $9.5 million required from the school.

Superintendent Phil Clark presented three other proposed construction plans at the meeting, saying they were all options the school district was willing to choose.

The second option still involves building a new middle school but specifies that the current middle school building, media center and cafeteria be torn down. Instead of being razed, the high school building would be renovated. This option would cost the school $22.45 million, with $9.9 million coming from the state and $12.55 required from the school district.

The third option involves the building of a new high school, with the current middle school, media center and

cafeteria being torn down and the current high school building being renovated. This option would cost the school district $27.65 million, with $13.05 million coming from the state and $14.06 million required from the school district.

The fourth option also involves the building of a new high school. In this option, the current high school and middle school buildings would be torn down and small outbuildings for district administration would be renovated. This option would cost the school $25.75 million, with $13.05 million coming from the state and $12.7 million required from the school district.

If the final plan requires the district to spend more than $10 million, Clark said Berryville residents should be prepared to vote on a millage increase. The district, he said, doesn't have enough money in its building fund to accommodate those plans.

According to Clark, a 1-mill increase on a property value of $100,000 would cost local property owners an extra $20 a year.

Suzanne Miner, a teacher at Berryville High School, acknowledged the history around the high school building and said she'd like the district to keep it as an administration building. Addressing a possible millage increase, Miner said she hoped Berryville residents would support the idea.

"I'd love to see a brand-new, beautiful high-tech high school. We all know that a town without a school is a dead town, and if we do not improve our high school facilities we won't have that," Miner said.

School board member Sherri Plumlee explained that it's difficult to get property owners to agree to a millage increase. The last time the district asked for a millage increase, Plumlee said, a committee had to work to sell the idea to the community. Plumlee acknowledged that many do not feel that millage was used correctly, saying she believes the district is in better fiscal shape now.

"What you need to look at now is the transparency we're giving you. I understand looking at the facts and what has happened in the past, but you need to understand what we're trying to do," Plumlee said.

The construction is needed, Clark said, because of the district's growing population at lower levels. Hipps addressed this growth, saying the facilities no longer fit the district's need.

"We have children being instructed in closets. We're talking about our children. We're talking about your grandchildren. We have to do something," Hipps said.

Using input from the meeting, the Berryville School Board will choose a construction plan by December.

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  • I'm not against school expansion, remodel or tear downs and build anew. What I say is how bad is it needed with the forecast of student enrollment for the next ten years. If it's under a certain figure or flat then why go to that expense. Like in Eureka Springs, a new High School was built with a flat projected enrollment, and a promise that the old school building and property would be sold to pay down the debt. Now the old school and property is being looked at as a community center at the cost to all taxpayers in the district. BE HONEST in what you ask for, with no hidden agendas.

    -- Posted by Concerned Person on Thu, Nov 5, 2015, at 10:15 AM
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