When Barton, Lexa and Lake View voters go to the polls in the Sept. 19 school election, they will be asked to approve a 12.9 mill increase over the school district's current 28.6 millage rate, raising it to 41.5 mills. The increase will be used to fund a basic construction and renovation project that will cost approximately $13.5 million.

When Barton, Lexa and Lake View voters go to the polls in the Sept. 19 school election, they will be asked to approve a 12.9 mill increase over the school district's current 28.6 millage rate, raising it to 41.5 mills. The increase will be used to fund a basic construction and renovation project that will cost approximately $13.5 million.

School officials have been busy spreading the word concerning the importance of the millage increase at a couple of community meetings held Aug. 24 at Barton and Aug. 29 in the Lake View community.

The district is hoping to replace several existing facilities that were originally built during the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s. “Those buildings,” say school officials, “are at the end of their life cycles.” The proposed construction and renovation project includes but is not limited to: replacing the old 1955 primary school building; replacing the old elementary playground with a new fenced-in playground; replacing the 1966 high school building; remodeling the existing gymnasium; replacing the P.E. facility; and demolishing the superintendent's house and old field house to provide additional parking.

According to fact sheets provided by the district, if the millage passes the state will pay $4,782,763 leaving about $8.7 million to be funded by the district over a 30-year period. The Barton-Lexa School District will not receive the state partnership funding if the millage fails.

The Fact Sheet states, “Barton cannot and will never be able to afford” the facilities project without passing the millage increase. It goes on to say that currently the district has the third lowest millage rate in Arkansas, just 3.6 mills above the state minimum 25 mills. Those additional 3.6 mills will expire in 2020. Currently the Barton-Lexa School district ranks as the third poorest school district in Arkansas.

Additional facts provided by the district report that it costs $13 million annually to operate Barton-Lexa schools. Taxpayers finance around 945,790. The additional money comes from state and federal funding and grants.

School officials fear a bleak future if the millage fails. After the 3.6 debt mills expire in 2020, Barton could be placed on the fiscal distress list and face a possibly a state take over as well as consolidation by 2022. If the Barton-Lexa School District is forced to consolidate with another district then a new tax rate would be established.

A “mill” is a tax levied on property and personal property within the school district's boundaries. The tax is paid only by those owning property or personal property there and residents and patrons of the district are the only ones who can cast a vote “for” or “against” the tax in the upcoming election.

Early voting begins Sept. 12 and continues through Sept. 18 at the Phillips County Courthouse. The school election is set for Tuesday, Sept. 19. Polling places are the Helena-West Helena Water Department, Spring Lake Church, the Lexa Fire Department, the Barton Fire Department, Fuller Seed Co. at Poplar Grove and Lake View City Hall.