Early Voting For Mill Increase In Bentonville Schools Starts

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Early voting for a proposed second high school in Bentonville starts Tuesday (Sept. 10).

Voters in Centerton said they were voting because of the overcrowding at Bentonville High School, which has 4,242 enrolled this year.

"I have three children in the high school now and they are complaining about constantly about the halls and how it's hard to get through," Mark Edwards said. "They have to go across buildings and their teachers are roaming around... it's hard to find teachers between different classes."

The proposal comes more than a year after a similar property tax increase for a second high school was rejected by voters. Administrators said the new school is needed because of overcrowding concerns at Bentonville High School.

Centerton Mayor Bill Edwards has been talking to people about the millage and hearing their concerns.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions and this gave us an opportunity to present in detail how the millage is going to be broken down and what the cost would be per home owner,” Edwards said.

According to the district, a property owner who owns a $100,000 home would pay less than $5 extra a month. The rejected millage increase from last year proposed an increase of 6.7 mills. That number has been reduced in this year’s proposal to 2.9 mills.

"I do appreciate them re-doing the numbers, I think the first one was a little high, so to come back with the same functionality of the new school, but make it cheaper for the citizens," James King said.

The proposed second high school would be built on Gamble Road in Centerton. Edwards said one concern he’s heard is the traffic increase if the school is constructed.

“We’ll make that a three lane road,” Edwards said. “We’re going to do some paving on the west side of the school property.”

“We hope to also install traffic lights and we will be working with the Arkansas Highway Department,” he added.

The final date when voters will decide whether or not to approve the millage is Sept. 17.

“We’re still going to be working it right to the very end and be very active through the week and this weekend,” said Bentonville Superintendent Michael Poore.

This millage is less than half the amount voters rejected in 2012. Administrators hope the reduced amount will more acceptable to voters this time around. Poore said one concern he’s heard is with the quality of the building. He wants to make sure parents are confident with the design.

“It will be a building that people will be proud of, whether you look at it from a structural point of view or in the academic or extra-curricular programming that will be done at the site,” Poore said.

The total cost of the project is about $86 million dollars. $73 million would be paid by the millage and $13 million by the state, if approved by voters.

A vote can be cast at the Riordan Hall in Bella Vista, Centerton Fire Department and the Bentonville County Clerk Office. There will be 14 polling sites on Sept. 17.