FORT SMITH (KFSM)-The Fort Smith School Board voted this week to spend $70 million to expand and renovate five local schools, but that won’t happen without voter approval.
“We have some crowding in the high schools and the junior highs,” Dr. Deanie Mehl, School Board President said. “The main issue though is the renovation. I think we are an older district, but we've prided ourselves in maintaining our buildings.”
School board members said the district will seek federal grants and state partnership funds to help pay for the projects, but they will also ask voters to approve a millage increase in September of 2016.
“We have to increase taxes in order to pay for things, and nobody wants to pay any more taxes, but if it's for the better for the kids and all, that's good,” Debbie Brown, resident said.
“We will have to have a millage increase,” Dr. Mehl said. “There is no way we can do this construction without it.”
Dr. Mehl said building tornado shelters at both high schools is the top priority.
“The second would be the renovation at Southside and here at Ramsey,” she said.
Dr. Mehl said the property tax increase will be determined after they find out how FEMA and the state can help.
“We`re not looking at an extensive millage increase,” she said. “We could do all these projects for a 3 mill increase, which would still keep us below 40 mills.”
The school board president said a three-mill increase on a $100,000 home would increase the owner's annual property tax by $60. She said there hasn't been a millage increase since 1987.