The Vilonia School District will host its first public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday to discuss the millage increase proposal that was introduced during the school board’s regular meeting June 12.
During the meeting the board approved 7-0 requesting a 5.7 millage increase for a new auditorium, career technical building and high school cafeteria as part of the district facilities plan.
Superintendent David Stephens said Thursday’s meeting will be a chance for the district to explain the proposal and answer any questions the community might have.
The board also approved two land purchases during its regular meeting.
The first purchase was for 18.8 acres east of the high school for $470,000 and the second was for 26 acres south of the middle school for $10,000 per acre.
Stephens said the land purchases are for future expansions in the district
“We would be landlocked otherwise,” he said.
The land, Stephens said, will be financed with money from the district’s building funds.
He said discussions on the purchase began at the beginning of the year and the need for the millage increase goes hand-in-hand with that.
A special election will be conducted in September for the millage and if it passes, Stephens said the district would be moving forward with the construction process.
The expansion would provide extra classroom space, which Stephens said is needed, and add to the district’s ability to prepare its students for the future.
Stephens said the career technical building includes agriculture, business and other programs but with the possible future project, could expand those programs or add more.
“We’re still in talks of what that might look like,” he said.
These are not the first discussions the district has had on the millage.
During a board meeting in May 2016, officials expressed concerns regarding moving forward the proposal being on the September ballot.
Stephens shared issues regarding decreases in enrollment, reduced funding and employee salaries.
He also communicated worries about losing the $1.5 million in state funding that has already been approved for the project and suggested contacting the state department and asking for a year’s waiver regarding the funding.
Stephens said then that delaying the millage initiative until 2017 would delay the project, but would give the district more time to assess the situation.
“From the time the funds are appropriated, we have 18 months to sign a construction contract,” Stephens previously said in an email. “We expect the funds to be appropriated by May 15, 2016. Our 18-month deadline for a signed contract would be November 15, 2017. So, we can have our election in September of 2017 and get the construction contract signed by November 15.”