Quitman Public Schools will soon see upgrades after residents approved a 2.5-mill increase Tuesday night.
It was the first millage increase the district has seen in 25 years.
The proposal ultimately passed (335 for and 252 against), allowing the school to raise teacher pay in accordance with Arkansas law, renovate the elementary school and construct a track.
While a specific time line is not yet available, Quitman Superintendent Dennis Truxler said renovations to the elementary will come first and should be completed by the 2020-21 academic year.
“We will concentrate on the renovation first and try our best to get that completed this summer prior to classes starting back in August,” Truxler told the Log Cabin Democrat.
Quitman Elementary School renovation plans include removing the plexiglass windows and replacing them with “more efficient, smaller windows.”
The building was constructed in 1963 and is need of roof repairs, an updated electrical system as well as an updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
During the renovation process, the outdated brick will also be updated to match the high school.
“The overall look of the building is outdated,” High School Principal Michael Stacks said, adding that the project will bring new life to the preschool-second grade wing.
Of the 1-mill increase earmarked for improvement projects, the school plans to construct a track for its athletics department.
At this time, administrators are seeking estimates to determine whether the track will be constructed adjacent to the district’s football field (between the football field and the Quitman Family Fitness & Tanning center) or around the football field.
Should the track be constructed around the current football field, the bleachers and concession stand likely would be moved. Administrators will bid the project accordingly to the cheaper option, Stacks said.
The vote also moved to earmark 1.5 mills to fund increasing teacher pay. The move aids the district in complying with a bill Gov. Asa Hutchinson approved last year that incrementally raises teacher pay over a four-year period, eventually reaching $36,000.
The district’s superintendent said he was thankful for the community’s support in passing the tax rate.
“A lot of folks showed up for the public meeting and were informed voters heading into the polls,” Truxler said. “I’m very pleased with the outcome. This was the first millage (increase) passed here since 1994. I’m very thankful for the support of the community.”
The district’s millage rate still falls below the state average following Tuesday’s vote, Stacks said.
“We were able to keep the rate below the state average. We didn’t want to burden tax payers more than we actually needed,” he said. The state average is 38.5 mills. With the approved hike, the district’s rate is at 36 mills.
The district’s educators applauded the rate increase and look forward to seeing the upcoming projects come to life.
“Our teachers will be able to continue growing and providing excellent education to students,” Rachel McDaniel, an Enlglish and language arts instructor, said. “Our growing school brings more athletes and a much-needed track. The (kindergarten through second grade) building will be able to be refreshed and reflect how proud we are of our school.”
Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.