Harrisburg residents hear about millage

Monday, November 5, 2018
Harrisburg School Board member Jeb Bass (standing) addresses a question during a town hall meeting discussing the proposed millage rate increase. (DT Photo/Corey Clairday)

On Nov. 6, Harrisburg voters will decide whether or not the millage for the school district is increased to 41 mills. Harrisburg's current millage is 35.5 and the former Weiner district's millage is 39.9. During a town hall meeting Monday, residents were able to hear the reasons why the school board is asking for a millage increase as well as ask questions of the board and two advisory committees made up of teachers and community members.

Harrisburg Superintendent Danny Sample told those gathered that the last millage increase for maintenance and operations was passed in 1997. It was a one-tenth of a mill increase that was required by the state. The school board is hoping for a unified millage rate across the district and wants to refund the outstanding bonded indebtedness. Sample said the debt refinancing would net the district money 45 days after the election in the amount of $1,860,000 which would be spent on needed upgrades and must be spent within three years. The millage would take effect in two years and would bring in $370,000 a year with $50,000 going toward bond payments and $320,000 going to the district for maintenance and operations.

Nathan Pierce, who is serving on one of the advisory committees, served as mediator for the meeting and went over the basics of the millage.

The school board agreed that one of the top priorities in getting this funding would be upgrading security district-wide. The plan is to install camera systems, replace the intercom system, and control access into the buildings. Currently, there are over 42 unsecured entry points.

Also on the list of needs are maintenance issues such as repairing leaking and worn out roofs, replacing the HVAC system, repairing parking lots, and upgrading the facades of the Agri Building and the EAST Lab. Regarding the HVAC system, Pierce said it has been patched so much over the years that it is at the point that it needs to be replaced.

As far as the difference in real estate tax with the proposed rate of 41 mills, Pierce said real estate appraised at $100,000 would see a difference of $110 a year or $9.17 a month. A house appraised at $50,000 would see an increase of $55 a year or $4.58 a month. Those numbers are for Harrisburg. Weiner's increase from 39.9 to 41 mills would be smaller with yearly increase of $22 for a $100,000 house.

Pierce said a lot of districts are facing the same problems as Harrisburg such as declining enrollment--which results in decreases in state funding--and increasing costs for maintenance. "We're in dire need of it," Pierce said. "With declining enrollment, we're at the point where we're having to pull more and more out of the reserves."

Vickie Winnigham, who also serves on an advisory committee, spoke at the end after a Q and A, saying, "We could lose our community and town if we don't keep up our schools. It can happen before you know it. We can't do it without you."

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