The Hamburg School District is considering what needs to be done to improve its facilities, and discussed a possible tax millage to fund those improvements.
Superintendent Tracy Streeter presented a list of possible improvements to the school board at its meeting last week, a list that included the high school auditorium, middle school and elementary school bathrooms and the gym at Portland elementary.
Other improvements included projects that would require an engineer’s appraisal and estimate, including connecting the Marilyn Chambers Building to the first grade section of Noble/Allbritton and connecting the art room to the south end of the high school.
“This is nothing definite,” Streeter said. “We’ve just been talking about what each building needs.”
Board member Maggie Ware asked about a projected cost of the individual projects. Funding expensive projects will be difficult for the district with declining enrollment numbers that result in declining revenue.
“We would have to call an architect,” Streeter said. “I didn’t feel right about (calling the architect) before the board was informed.”
Streeter said a millage increase is the most realistic method of funding the proposed improvements.
“A one-mil increase will raise about $110,000 each year,” finance director John Spradlin said. “If we do three mills, that’s $330,000 a year.”
Streeter said the district wouldn’t ask for more than a 3.5 mills increase.
She said the priority of the district is improving facilities with a focus on safety. The district is still waiting to hear about the approval status of grants to install door locking systems at all of the district’s schools, Streeter said.
The superintendent likewise told the board that connecting the art room to the high school is an issue of safety. The proposal submitted at the meeting states the purpose of doing this “is to do away with the outside portable buildings and enclose the high school on the south end for safety purposes.”
Streeter said the auditorium, in its current state, doesn’t even serve all of the high school students at one time, much less a community function.
“We have to split (students) into two meetings,” she said. “I don’t know if you’ve been in there lately, but it needs remodeling.”
The bathrooms in the middle school and in the Noble side of the elementary school are dated, Streeter said.
The proposal calls for new fixtures, stalls and floors in both of the bathrooms.
Streeter said HSD’s millage is “considerably low” at 35.5 compared to Crossett School Districts 39.5.
“We can’t ask the community for a five-mil increase,” she said. “That’s not feasible.”
Ware said it seems like these improvements need to be made regardless of a millage increase. She said there has to be other pressing issues with the district and its facilities.
“Our track isn’t AAA ready to host a track meet,” she said. “That’s not fair to the parents, kids or anybody. They always have to go out of town.”
Streeter said the district is aiming to put an election on the ballot in May.
“Right now, we’re robbing our citizens,” Ware said. “Now we want to ask for an additional school tax? I don’t know.”
Streeter said the excess money that was transferred, by law, to the building fund would be used to supplement the cost of the improvements. If a tax wasn’t passed, she said the district would use those funds to slowly complete the improvements.
Board member Jim Wells said he wasn’t comfortable approving anything until he had approximate cost figures.
“I agree that it needs to be done,” he said. “I just don’t feel like I can ask people (to support a millage increase) without knowing a little bit more.”
The board approved allowing Streeter to consult with an architect to get approximate figures – an action Streeter said would cost $30,000 to $50,000 – with the stipulation that the estimates are itemized.