The Fountain Lake School District (FLSD) taxpayers deserve nothing less than whole truth before they go to the polls on May 21. Below (in bold and quotes) is what FLSD has led us to believe in order to get the millage increase passed. We’ve added important information for the taxpayers not previously revealed by FLSD.
“The last millage increase for the District was in 1990…” There is a long and involved legal history which started in the 1990’s and was ultimately resolved by arbitration in 2007. In 2003 the millage was 30.25, where it remained by court order even after an election had raised the millage to 37.80 mills. The disputed 7.55 mills were escrowed until 2007 when the lawsuit was settled and the new millage rate was set by agreement at 34.90 mills. On Nov. 14, 2007 the Village Voice reported the $1.6 million in escrow funds were distributed as follows: $324,000 to FLSD and $944,000 to taxpayers, with the remainder going to lawyers and court expenses. In 2007 voters approved a millage rate of 34.90, which was subsequently lowered to 34.80 to comply with AR Constitution, Amendment 59, “millage rollback” requirement.
“Current Millage rate is the lowest in Garland and Saline Counties...” Although this is a factually correct statement, it is very misleading and should not be used to justify the increase. Millage rate is a multiplier and the amount of money it collects varies with the value of the real property located in the taxing district. Each FLSD mill is currently worth $372,907. Consider this: each of FLSD mills is worth 370% more than that of Cutter Morning Star, 36% more than Hot Springs and 45% or more than the other districts. It takes fewer mills for FLSD to generate more revenue per student than all of the other area districts. In 2010 the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) determined that FLSD was one of the wealthiest school districts in Arkansas.
“Real estate property assessments in FLSD have been flat since 2011…” However, the total assessed values have fluctuated. Reappraisals were done in 2012 and 2017. These reflected real estate values during a major recession. In 2011 the FLSD total assessed value was $366M, in 2018 it was $380M.
“No base salary increases in the District since 2013” and “Teacher salaries have been flat for six years while other districts have had raises...” These statements are correct but they ignore history, which largely explains why FLSD salaries have not increased recently. In 2010-2014 FLSD tested a performance-based incentive program. Some teachers and administrators received bonuses of between $7,000 and $9,000—in addition to their normal step increases. However, the program was discontinued after 3 years.
“Athletic facilities are aging...” From 2007-2015, the following major facilities were either newly built or upgraded in FLSD: a new Middle School was built, the bus barn was relocated and new tennis courts installed. Artificial turf was installed on the football field and a 6-lane track built around the perimeter of the field. The football clubhouse and exercise building were expanded and renovated, two “safe rooms” were constructed and outfitted so they could be productively used for multiple school purposes beyond protecting students, staff and nearby neighbors.