The Hamburg School District’s superintendent made the case to the public for improvements she said are needed at the schools.
The potential funding for the improvements could come from a tax millage increase, should the school board decide to seek it, Superintendent Tracy Streeter said.
Streeter first approached the HSD board about the needed improvements in September, and the board requested that she take the discussion to the public before they take it further.
“This is your money, your school district, and they felt it was important,” Streeter told those in attendance at Monday’s meeting.
The superintendent said the millage increase was part of the discussion in part because demographic shifts around the state are taken into consideration in the state’s school funding formulas.
“The schools that are growing are getting that money,” she said. “Southeastern Arkansas is not growing, so we are not getting that money. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t have those needs.”
During the meeting — which included question and comment portions for the public — Streeter said the total cost of improvements in her presentation was $6,110,456, though some of the items included could wait for a later time.
The proposed improvements included every school in Hamburg and at Portland Elementary.
Among the needs for Hamburg High School discussed were:
-To connect the free-standing art room to the southern end of the high school, which would eliminate two portable classrooms. The combined remodel and construction would add three classrooms and bathrooms, and would help improve school security, Streeter said.
The presentation information distributed to the audience members said the school is currently short a classroom, and the addition would address that need.
-To expand the auditorium to 600 seats, which would allow the entire student body to attend events at the same time.
-To replace the heating and air conditioning system in the cafeteria and kitchen.
-To drain an area in the front of the high schools that currently retains water year-round.
“If it is not 110 degrees three days in a row, you can see that green muck,” Streeter said. “If we don’t do something, we will have a foundation issue.”
Among the needs for Hamburg Middle School discussed were:
-Remodeling bathrooms in the front and back halls.
“These bathrooms are the oldest in the district,” Streeter said. “The good news is the plumbing is good. It just needs new fixtures, stalls and doors.”
-Adding air-conditioning to the four main dressing rooms in the gym.
“The largest group of students (in the district) is in the fourth, fifth and sixth grade,” Streeter said. “We could use those dressing rooms temporarily for classrooms.”
Among the needs for Portland Elementary were:
-Remodeling the gym. During her presentation, Streeter showed the audience photos from inside the building where sunlight could be seen through the walls.
“This is the gym that was built years ago for Portland High,” she said, noting that the cinderblocks are corroded and portions of the wood rotted.
The bleachers that are in building are also too steep to meet code, she said.
“The community uses (the gym) a lot, so you want to do something that is financially feasible but that they can be proud of.”
-Replacing an old gas line. Streeter said gas can be smelled around the building at times because of the aging piping.
Among the needs for the Noble-Albritton building discussed were:
-Remodeling the bathrooms at the Noble end of the school.
“I don’t even have to tell you what kindergartens can do to plumbing — and they have,” Streeter said.
-Connecting the Marilyn Chambers Building to the first grade end of Noble.
The school’s special populations students are housed in the building, which is freestanding and surrounded by fencing, and admission is granted using a series of buzzers. Attaching the building will make for a better environment for the district’s neediest students, Streeter said.
“Securing them we have a chain link fence and three doorbells,” she said. “I think we can do better.”
Other needs discussed included adding plumbing and a training room to the district’s indoor facility, building a $1.15 million ballpark with soccer and baseball fields and refurbishing the HHS track.
The land for the ballpark will come from property donated by the City of Hamburg, and while the district won’t be able to do everything it wants right away, “I would like for us to start something that the generations to come can build upon,” Streeter said.
If the district increases the millage by three mills, the district will receive $5,500,000; 3.5 mills will generate $6,400,000; and four mills will generate $7,300,000.
To a property owner whose property is appraised at $100,000, a three-mill increase will cost them an additional $60 each year, while 3.5 additional mills will cost an extra $70, and four mills will increase their taxes by $80.
Hamburg School District currently has the second lowest millage rate among school districts with similar enrollment, behind only Westside Consolidated in Jonesboro.
The difference is that a mill — which factors in local business — generates a considerable amount more in Jonesboro, Streeter said.
HSD’s millage rate is set at 35.50. The Crossett millage rate is 39.97, Drew Central and Monticello are are both at 39.9, Strong-Huttig is at 39, and Lakeside is at 36.
Hamburg Mayor Dane Weindorf spoke in favor of the increase, saying that the school system is at this time the city’s No. 1 economic driver.
“The school system is not looking for a handout,” he said. “They are looking for a hand-up.
“Hamburg cannot survive without our schools. We need to invest in what we have.
“For me, this is about our future as a viable community.”
Hamburg resident James Hamilton likewise spoke in favor of the millage.
“Quite simply, this is something that needs to be put to the voters and adopted at the full four mills,” he said, telling the audience that people are moving away from Hamburg because of a lack of infrastructure. “This is a project that is 20 years past due. Let’s get this done.”
Streeter said if the school board decides to pursue the millage, the vote will be on the ballot during the May school board elections.
For that to happen, however, the district will have to vote this month to adopt a resolution to get the measure on the ballot so that it can be filed by January.
If the board does that, Streeter said, “We would have to get really busy really fast.”