The Bentonville School District’s millage increase proposal passed Tuesday (Aug. 17) in a move that administrators said will create relief for an overcrowded Bentonville High School. School officials plan to use the money to build a second high school.
The proposal was approved 8,208 votes (70 percent) to 3,494 (30 percent), according to the Benton County Election Commission.
“We’ll have a kick off pretty soon that will give you a timeline of exactly what steps we’ll take and in what order,” said Mary Ley, Bentonville School District spokesperson. “Right now I think we just want to breathe, think that our kids will be taken care of and that our schools have the platform to remain the great schools they are.”
Ley said the school board will decide on boundary lines probably closer to when the second high school open in the Fall of 2016. She said as far as a name and a mascot for the school, that will be decided by public input.
“We know our students need room and just as tirelessly as we worked for this, we’ll get their new home ready,” Ley said.
“Yes” votes for the mill increase dominated early, as early voters approved of the measure 4,538 (74 percent) to 1,569 (26 percent). The support remained strong throughout the night.
A total of 6,223 voters cast their early ballots, according to County Clerk Tena O’Brien. Last year’s failed mill increase proposal attracted about 4,000 votes, according to the county clerk.
Bentonville School District administrators had spent the last several months holding forums and reaching out to residents to encourage them to vote an increase in property taxes to fund a second high school, which would total $86 million. They said the second school is necessary because of the overcrowding at Bentonville High School.
The school has a student population of 4,242. The high school’s ideal capacity is 3,700, Superintendent Michael Poore said during the campaign for the millage vote.
A mother explained how her daughter has been affected by the overcrowding.
"She was walking and the kids hit her in the mouth, by accident, but there were just way too many kids in the hallway and she always talks about being overcrowded at lunch as well," Leigh Oliver said. "Kids sitting on the floor, kids having to sit outside with their trays; these kids have to be comfortable in their environment.”
Administrators plan to build the second high school in Centerton. Its capacity is estimated to be about 2,250 students.
Senior football player Jordan White said he's looking forward to more people getting playing time in the future at the new high school.
"There’s a lot of good athletes that don’t get to play because someone may be better than them in that position," he said. "With the other high school, they will be able to play, which will be pretty good for them."
Voters rejected a similar mill increase proposal in 2012. However, voters in that election were faced with a 6.7 mill rate to fund the second high school, as opposed to the lowered 2.9 mill rate proposed by the school district this year.
The proposed millage went from 6.7 to 2.9 in hopes it will be more acceptable to voters who rejected it in June 2012.
The 2.9 mill increase would require property owners with a $100,000 home to pay less than $5 extra per month.
Administrators were asking for about $73 million in bonds to fund the second high school. The rest would be covered by the state.