MT School Board discussed needed millage increase

Friday, January 31, 2003

In the special called meeting on Jan. 27, the Marked Tree Board of Education discussed the need for an increase in millage as a result of the Lakeview case and set Feb. 10 as the date for an open meeting with a presentation of the millage options.

Supt. Masters explained to the board that all school districts must have dedicated 25 Maintenance and Operation mills in place prior to Jan. 1, 2004. Masters told the board, "In the past, it has been allowable to use excess millage from bonds to roll over and cover the 25 required mills. In the Lakeview case, the Supreme Court said, No, you can't do that anymore.'" Marked Tree Schools currently has 30.5 mills school tax, with 17.7 for maintenance and operation.

Masters presented three options provided by the school's financial consultants for the board to review. "If we do nothing, in November the Quorum Court will, by law, have to assess 7.3 mills to our school district," said Masters. Another option would be to ask the public for three mills and restructure some of their debt without extending the district's indebtedness, Masters added. The third option would be to ask the public for 1.5 new mills and restructure all of their bond issues. The last option would extend the district's indebtedness for 20 more years.

Masters told the board that if they restructure, the school is always slightly ahead of the debt payment and that excess debt mill may be used for other functions of the school. However, if the 7.3 mills are forced onto the school, there will be no excess, the school will not gain any cash flow and the public will be paying several times more in millage.

Masters said that there are 240 schools in the state caught in this mandate.

A motion was passed to have an open meeting on Feb. 10 with a presentation from financial consultants with Raney and Beardsley to discuss the millage requirement that has been mandated by the Supreme Court. The board chose to support the second option.

In other business the board:

*reviewed the bids for the dugout roof. A motion was passed to accept the bid from Gillis Construction, with the stipulation that the work is completed before baseball season begins.

*reviewed bids on facility and vehicle insurance. A motion was passed to accept the existing policy with the addition of earthquake insurance.

*approved a request from Vickie Frans that her 11th grade student be allowed to take Freshman English at ASU Tech during seventh period two days a week.

*presented Mr. Rick Hatley with a plaque in recognition for receiving National Board Certification. Masters told the board that only approximately 35 teachers from the state received the certification.

Earlier this month, during the regular monthly meeting of the Marked Tree Board of Education on Thursday, Jan. 16, Supt. Gary Masters reported that a team from the Arkansas Department of Education will visit the district on Jan. 24. The team will double check the second lien bond to assure that the expenditures listed have been paid on schedule. The team will also do a brief review of the books to check that the plan for the 2002-2003 school year has been fulfilled.

Masters also discussed Governor Huckabee's proposal for changes in education for the state. "There is this window of opportunity to think about what we might like to do, but a year from now we're going to be told what to do," Masters said. "I think it is always in our best option to go ahead and take the first step. If we want to sit down and talk with EPC or whomever, we need to do it," said board member Robert Boxley.

"At some point we might want to consider what possibilities we have now, rather than to wait and be forced into something," said Masters. He told the board that he would like to see what happened in this legislative session before taking any steps toward consolidation.

Upon returning from an executive session, board member Harry Webb made a motion to accept the recommendation of Masters to match the State Stipend for any teacher achieving National Board Certification effective July 1, 2003. The motion passed unanimously. Webb also commended Mr. Rick Hatley for achieving National Board Certification.

In other business the board:

*approved the minutes of the Dec. 9, 2002 regular monthly meeting and the Dec. 16 special meeting.

*accepted the financial report as presented.

*reviewed bids on tables and chairs. With board members Josh Gallion and Robert Boxley excused from the meeting, the bid of Ritter Seed Company was accepted to purchase the 15 tables and 90 chairs.

*discussed the computer wiring project at the High School and the electrical wiring at the Elementary.

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