The Viola School District can breathe easy after the March 11 vote on a millage increase that passed with an overwhelming 71 percent of ballots in favor of the new tax.
The need for the increase came after mounting pressure from the state to meet upgrade standards along with a decrease in revenue, found the district in a catch 22.
"We went to the polls March 11 and had 351 that voted for the millage increase and 141 that voted against," Viola Superintendent John May said. "This is unofficial but I think there were 502 votes all together." May said there were about 10 votes that were unreadable.
Often, when there is an opportunity to vote in Viola concerning the school a very small number of voters cast their ballots, but this time was an exception. "This is the best we have had in a long, long time," he said.
Voters supported a rather large millage hike, somewhere around 20-30 percent according to May.
"It is not a small increase, but I think people knew that. We were not trying to fool anybody. I really think people realize that there wasn't any guarantee that there would be a school here very far into the future, if they didn't pass this tax. I feel really confident that since this was passed, we can upgrade our facilities to the standards that the state wants us to and there will be nothing people need to worry about. We won't be consolidated anytime soon," May said.
With the millage passed the Viola School district intends to get underway with project construction as soon as possible. "Hopefully within the next three to six months we can get started on it," he said.
The district has hopes of breaking ground soon building new classrooms.
"There are 18 high school classrooms with offices, and I don't know the exact number, but I think 12 of those classrooms and offices will be built out in one wing first. It will be out where there are some parking lots between the current campus and Highway 62," he said.
"When that gets done, then we will come back and there are a couple of the older buildings that, at this time, the architect is planning to remove to put the additional classrooms and also the physical education facility. Part of those 18 classrooms has a band room included and I don't know if it will be added to the current gym or added to this physical education facility, it hasn't been decided yet," he said.
"I have heard a lot of different people make the statement that when we have our new buildings going up out here, maybe some people who live right between our district and some of the other ones that are around, especially on the west side toward Mountain Home, might decide they want to go ahead and come over here," May said.
With relief on the way, the Viola School District is working with FEMA and other agencies to take its first steps toward completion of their new school project plan.
"The school board, along with its administration and staff, want to thank everyone for their tremendous support to pass the school millage increase. The people have demonstrated their commitment to the youth of this area by willingly bearing the burden of higher taxes. The school will never forget their sacrifice," May said.