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Schools' fixes list assessed by panel

FORT SMITH -- A citizens committee has recommended more than $120 million in improvements to the Fort Smith School District, which, if adopted, would require a 6.8-mill property tax increase to pay for it.

The recommendations, drawn up by the 57-member committee over five weeks, will be presented to the School Board at its Feb. 26 meeting, according to a news release from the school district.

"We are very grateful for the 900 hours of effort that this group of dedicated people has invested in this process over the past five weeks," Superintendent Doug Brubaker said in the release. "They have carefully studied data and worked together to prioritize our district's greatest needs on behalf of students."

The committee's recommendations are:

• Renovation and expansion of Southside High School, $43.8 million.

• Renovation and expansion of Northside High School, $34.7 million.

• Renovation of Darby Junior High School, $9.6 million.

• Renovation of an existing facility into a career and technology center, $13.7 million.

• Safety and security projects, $5.5 million.

• Safety-related renovations for Barling, Cook, Woods and Morrison elementary schools, $10.4 million.

• Technology, $1.6 million.

• Staffing, including three school resource officers, seven nurses, a grant writer and a 1.34 percent raise for staff, $863,575.

Committee members started their deliberations with a needs list that totaled $658 million. That would have required a property tax increase of 41.2 mills, then the group trimmed the list to $120 million, the release said.

Brubaker said in the release the recommendations would be subject to consideration and revision by the School Board.

If voters approve the 6.8-mill increase, it would raise the total property tax rate for the Fort Smith School District from 36.5 mills to 43.3. The school district's property tax rate has not changed since 1987.

According to the district's news release, the increase would add $132 a year to the property tax bill on a $100,000 home.

A mill is one-10th of a cent. Each mill is charged against each dollar of assessed value and produces $1 of property tax for each $1,000 of valuation.

District officials say the committee's recommendations were part of the 10-month Vision 2023 initiative that involved 167 stakeholders to develop a strategic plan to drive continuous improvement in the district for the next five years.

The strategies focused on instructional excellence, staffing, equity, career planning, technology, wellness and learning, and environments/facilities.

NW News on 02/13/2018

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