WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (localmemphis.com) – The state of Arkansas is giving the West Memphis School District $22.5 million to fund two new junior high schools. However, the city has to match that to keep that funding by increasing the millage rate.
The millage rate would increase from 29 to 36.5. If voters approve the increased rate, it would fund the new West Junior High and the new Wonder Junior High. This would mean if someone lives in a $100,000 house they would pay $6 more per month on their property taxes.
Pat Hull has nieces and nephews in the West Memphis Public School District and said it’s time for updated schools so the kids can have a brighter future.
“As we look at our children right now as they are growing and more opportunities to get more education,” Hull said.
She is supporting the increase in the millage rate so the new schools will hopefully be equipped with more technology.
“It has changed so much since I was in school, and it’s going to continue to change so you have to be a part of the change,” Hull said.
Jon Collins is the superintendent for the West Memphis School District and said the millage rate for schools has not increased since 1953. The new schools will be more energy efficient and equipped with better technology and safety.
“You can imagine in a 1948 and a 1963 structure that the electrical backbone of those buildings are completely maxed out currently,” Collins said.
Included in the new schools will be enlarged cafeterias and libraries. He said if the increase in the millage rate is not approved by taxpayers, then the $22.5 million from the state will have to be returned.
However, the Crittenden County NAACP said on Facebook that this is not an issue about money, but about race.
“If the West Memphis School District cared about our children they’d fight to get Marion School District out of West Memphis and recover all the money we’re losing to Marion, rather than place another tax on poor people,” the Crittenden County NAACP said in a post on Facebook.
It argues that if Marion schools were taken out of West Memphis, then West Memphis would benefit from the money gained by losing those schools. It also argued that Marion is predominantly white, while West Memphis is predominantly African American.
The vote to whether or not increase the millage rate is September 10.