Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Dear Editor,

Highland School District is reaching out to the registered voters of our school district. On Tuesday, Aug. 13 we will be holding a special election and we are requesting our voters to vote for 4.0 new debt service property tax mills. This would also extend the existing 5.0 debt service mills. The millage is currently at 30.0 and the new total millage rate will be 34.0 mills if approved.

The additional money will be used for

• Constructing a Fine Arts Center

• Modernizing and updating the elementary school

• Adding additional security measures to the elementary, middle, and high school buildings

• Building a three-bay bus garage

• Correcting parking lot issues

• Constructing, refurbishing, remodeling, and equipping other school facilities

• Refunding the existing bonded indebtedness

Only three schools in the entire state of Arkansas have a lower tax rate than Highland School District. They are West Memphis, Mountain View, and Lee County. West Memphis is also asking for a millage increase at this time and they are asking for a higher increase than Highland.

In a recent letter to the editor it was suggested, we are trying to “keep up with the Jones family (other counties’ spending)”. That definitely is not our goal. The only other school in this county is Cave City and they are at 39 mills, which is very close to the state average. We are not asking to be at 39 mills. We are asking to be at 34 mills. We are currently near the very bottom, the 98th percentile. Out of 234 schools, we are tied for 230 when compared to all other public school district tax rates in Arkansas. With the proposed increase, we will bump up to the 86th percentile - still well below the state average. Even with the increase, 200 schools will still have a higher millage rate than Highland. This includes the other school in this county and all of the other schools in the surrounding counties except one.

The letter also questioned our decision to discontinue the Navy JROTC Program. When we surveyed students at the end of the last school year, only 12 students said they were interested in being in the program for the next school year. The minimum set forth by the Navy funding guidelines is 50 students. We’ve spent several years developing the program trying to reach those numbers, but there just wasn’t enough interest among our students to warrant continuing that specific program. There was also not a significant increase in the number of students enlisting compared to the years prior to installing the program. We do want to keep the connections we have made with veterans and want to encourage those students who were interested, so we are trying to partner with local veterans to come work with those students who did sign up.

Everyone wants to know how much this millage will cost them. For every $50,000 (as appraised) worth of property, it will cost $3.33 per month. We have a chart in our informative brochure. We would love to share it with you. Come by the administration office to pick up your copy or view it on our website, HighlandRebels.org/millage-information.

We would love to answer any lingering questions you have. We will hold a community forum on Aug. 6 at 6 p.m. in the Highland High School Cafeteria to discuss this issue with you, so you can make an informed decision when you vote at the special election on Aug. 13.

Sincerely,

Don Sharp

Highland School District Superintendent