DALLAS — North Little Rock School District No. 1 of Pulaski County is asking for a little love from voters on Valentine’s Day in the form of a property tax increase to support bonds for a $265.6 million facilities improvement program.
Trustees approved the Feb. 14 election in September 2011, along with a financial plan that included tax revenue, bond proceeds and state matching funds for the effort to replace or renovate every campus of the 9,500-student district.
The district has $24.7 million of outstanding GO debt with an enhanced rating of Aa3 based on the state’s district enhancement program. North Little Rock School District is the eighth-largest school district in the state.
The two-part program includes a $169 million initial phase that should be completed by mid-2013 and a $96 million final phase to be completed before the 2015-2016 school year.
The five-year plan would be one of the largest school construction and renovation efforts in Arkansas.
Although new facilities will be built, the district will actually reduce the number of campuses it operates to 13 from 21 currently.
District officials said if the 7.4 mill increase in the existing 40.7 mill property tax is approved, the state will contribute $66.6 million, or about a quarter of the program, in the fiscal 2013-15 matching funds program. If the increase is rejected, the district would not be eligible for the state state funds until 2017.
The district also expects to cut operating costs with some consolidations of schools in the facilities program. The anticipated savings of $8.3 million a year will support $125 million of the bonds.
The tax increase would raise the annual tax on a $100,000 residence by $148 a year. Property in Pulaski County is assessed at 20% of its appraised value.
North Little Rock School District was rated in May 2011 as financially distressed by the Arkansas Board of Education because of discrepancies in its bank statements and its financial reports. The discrepancy was in the district’s favor by almost $100,000, but the state ordered the district to improve its accounting procedures and make other changes.
The district did not appeal the board’s ruling.
Luke King, co-chair of a citizens group supporting the district’s facilities plan, said the school buildings are old and need to be replaced or rebuilt.
North Little Rock School District developed its own facilities program after an 18-month review of structures and needs, King said.
“We’ve been getting some good feedback, and not a lot of opposition so far,” he said. “I think the voters are really going to support the school district.”