MHPS to hear public comments on second attempt for millage … – Mountain Home Observer

Be there or be square Mountain Home residents.

Today marks an opportunity to address the Mountain Home Public School District’s second attempt at raising taxes to renovate and remodel the oldest part of its high school campus.

The district will be hosting a formal meeting in Dunbar Auditorium at the high school at 6:00 p.m. tonight to discuss the potential of placing another millage increase measure for high school renovations on the ballot in 2023.

The school board, Superintendent Jake Long, state education officials, and the district’s financial advisors will be in attendance.

The meeting will begin with a presentation on the need for upgrading the high school’s infrastructure before moving into an open comment period. A short recess following the presentation will allow residents to sign up to speak before the public.

Residents will have a limited time to speak before the school board publicly discusses another attempt at a millage increase. School officials state that the purpose of this meeting is to provide the school board with community feedback on whether they should vote to make a second attempt at a millage increase.

During a Mountain Home Public Schools strategic planning meeting in early January, members of the school board, along with Superintendent Dr. Jake Long, strategized how to ask the public once more to swallow a millage tax increase to pay for the new construction of a replacement high school building.

“The needs have not gone away. They’re not going to go away,” Dr. Long said during that meeting.

The existing high school structure remains an issue for students, teachers, and support staff. For the last five years, Dr. Long and the district have been working to create a plan to fix the high school’s infrastructure problems.

The issue of rebuilding the high school goes back to the school board’s decision 30 years ago to simply cover up the high school campus’ aged 1960’s buildings with a giant metal roof to save money for voters.

While the can may have been kicked down the road 30 years ago, it can longer be ignored.

Last August, an election was held for voters inside the Mountain Home school district for the question of whether to raise millage rates for the purpose of covering new construction costs.

The measure failed with a 16-vote spread. Recent increases in Baxter County property tax assessments, misinformation, and a national recession are the most likely suspects in the defeated millage increase.

Critics of the measure also opposed the language on the ballot, claiming it was too open-ended. Dr. Long addressed that point to school board members during that meeting, saying he thought it worthy of modifying the ballot language to tighten the scope of the contract.

The district is potentially looking at asking voters for an additional 2.75 mills vs. the original ask of 2.25 from last August.

Interest rates are up from five months ago, as are construction costs for labor and many building materials. What was once a $40 million project last year will now cost upwards of $60 million.

The school district is projecting costs of around 300 to 375 dollars per square foot. The current plan has a total of 160 thousand square feet.

Updates to the building plans for phase two are complete, with the architecture and engineering firm eliminating 20 thousand square feet from the original plans to reduce costs.

The are currently three options for the board to choose from: do nothing, re-roof the existing building for about $10 million, or move forward with the new building plans.

A discussion was held on potentially re-supporting the existing structure and gutting it all underneath. But at 80 thousand square feet at the cost of $375/sq ft, the district would be looking at a $30 million renovation project and still have the existing plumbing and foundational issues.

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