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By the Numbers: The real value of supporting WM schools

By the Numbers: The real value of supporting WM schools

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Millage vote Sept. 10 will decide direction for WMSD plans for the future

[email protected] On Tuesday, Sept. 10, voters in the West Memphis School District will head to the polls to decide on a millage increase for the purpose of constructing two new junior high schools. The 7.5 mill hike would raise the current millage (one of the lowest in the state) from 29 mills to 36.5 and give the district access to grant money to help finance the multimillion- dollar building projects.

The district has set up a special web site specifically to answer questions and provide information about the millage. Those seeking a detailed breakdown of the plans can visit www.

buildthefuturetogether.com. Superintendent Jon Collins recently reached out to voters with an appeal for support.

Providing safe and modern learning environments for our students and staff continues to be our main priority,” said Collins “An investment in our schools is an investment in your schools and your community. We will be holding several informational meetings to share our vision for the future of our district and how we feel this positively impacts the future of our community.”

The bottom line, Collins stressed, for West Memphis School District and the community of West Memphis, came down to three choices.

1) Support a millage increase and continue to improve our learning / teaching environments for students and staff with the state paying $22.4 million and the district paying the rest.

2) Don’t support a millage and live in our old buildings forever. 3) Don’t support the current millage in September and we will be forced to send the $22.4 million in partnership funds back to the state for other districts to use in their communities that can pass a millage to support their schools.

“Then,” the superindendent cautioned, “if West Memphis ever decides to re-visit a millage proposal in the future for new buildings, we would have to pass an even higher rate to cover the lost partnership program funding that we would forfeit at this time. The funding priority changed January 1, 2019 and WMSD will no longer qualify for such a large amount in the future.”

Collins also provided some answers to a few frequently asked questions.

What is a millage election?

Public schools rely on the support of local taxpayers to fund the operations and facilities of the school district. Similar to homeowners borrowing money in the form of a mortgage, a school district borrows to finance the design, construction, expansion, and renovations of schools and facilities. Districts also can seek additional funds for ongoing costs such as technology replacement, security measures, teacher salaries, etc. A millage increase must be approved by voters in a millage election. What is a mill?

Property taxes are based on millage rates. The Latin word “millage” means thousandth, so when applied to taxes, a mill is equal to $1 in tax per $1,000 in taxable value.

For example, a 1 mill tax rate on property that has a taxable value of $100,000 is $100 in taxes.

Property tax, assessment & mill values – School districts are funded through a combination of local and state taxes. The Real, Personal and Utility taxes comprise three main categories. Real, Personal and Utility Assessments are added together to create the Total Assessment for a school district.

How is my tax calculated? Property tax is based on the assessed values of property and the tax rate levied.

In Arkansas, property is assessed at 20 percent of its market value.

Sample comparisons — Jonesboro’s assessment is approximately $616,150,481 with a single mill value of approximately $616,000. Russellville’s single mill value is approximately $938,337. West Memphis School District’s single mill value is approximately $333,320. All mill values are not equal across the state.

Fact: WMSD’s millage rate is the 2nd lowest millage rate in Arkansas — The West Memphis School District millage rate has not had a voter elected change since 1953. As a result, the district has maintained the 2nd lowest tax rate in the state with 29 mills, as well as, minimal debt ratios compared to other districts.

One can see the perplexity of districts and what they have to offer based on their assessments, millage rates and individual mill values.

With low assessment, low millage rate and low mill value … it takes more to provide more for students and staff.

What is the plan?

The West Memphis School District has a Master Facilities Plan. Six years ago West Memphis School District created a 10-year master facilities plan with the Arkansas Department of Education Facilities Division. Currently, we have completed Phase 1 and are in the process of finishing Phase 2 of this plan. Improvements have totaled just over $64 million: “Now is our best chance to help impact students and this community for years to come,” said Collins. “Please join us as we build the future together in West Memphis!”

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