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Mountain Home Public Schools’ Board of Education announced an upcoming special meeting to discuss a potential millage tax increase ballot measure for the purpose of renovating Mountain Home High School as project costs rise to $60 million.
The meeting will be held Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. inside the high school cafeteria. Members of the public are encouraged to attend and participate.
According to Superintendent Dr. Jake Long, the board will host guests from the project architecture firm, Modus Studio as well as guests from Stephens Inc., the global financial firm that is working with the district on financing options.
Both firms have offices in Fayetteville, Arkansas. “They’ll update us on the current structural and financial needs related to this project,” said Dr. Long.
Also in attendance will be representatives from the Arkansas Department of Education, Division of Public School Academic Facilities & Transportation.
“[They’ll] come and visit with you all about their inspections that they have made on that particular structure,” said Dr. Long.
Following these three presentations and a short recess, there will be opportunities for members of the public to sign up to speak. Time will be limited per person based on the amount of people present wishing to make their feedback known.
The board will then discuss and use the information presented to determine if a millage tax increase should be placed on an upcoming ballot and when the election should occur.
Options for election dates can occur in May, August or November.
During a School Board work session meeting on Jan. 5, discussion leaned heavily on a potential May 9 election.
The school district put forth a similar measure on the ballot last August and it failed by less than 20 votes. Recent increases in Baxter County property tax assessments, misinformation and a national recession are the most likely suspects in the defeated 2.25 millage increase.
The district is potentially now looking at asking voters for an additional 2.75 mills vs. the original ask of 2.25 from last August to help cover the increased cost of the project.
Interest rates are up from a mere five months ago, as are construction costs for labor and many building materials. What was once a $40 million project last year, is now going to cost upwards of $60 million.
The school district is projecting costs to be around 300 to 375 dollars per square foot. The current plan has a total of 160 thousand square feet.
“We can’t build the plans that we had before with the interest rates that we’re potentially looking at,” said Dr. Long.
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 try to reduce costs.
Dr. Long presented three options to the board: do nothing, re-roof the existing building for about $10 million or move forward with the new building plans.
Discussion lingered on potentially re-supporting the existing structure and gutting it all underneath. But at 80 thousand square feet at a 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.
“It’s a waste of money,” said Vice President Lisa House referring to it as a $30 million ‘band-aid’ for a 66-year-old structure.
The public will have the opportunity to learn more and give feedback on Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.