DALLAS - Fayetteville, Ark., will build the most expensive public high school in the state if voters approve a property rate increase to support $110 million of general obligation bonds for the project.
Trustees of Fayetteville School District No. 1 of Washington County voted unanimously to put the proposal for the 4.9-mill tax increase on the Sept. 15 ballot. The increase is expected to generate a total of $113 million.
The proposed new high school would be built on the site of the district's existing high school, which was built in 1952 to accommodate 1,000 students. The high school was last renovated in 1991.
Tim Hudson, vice president of the Fayetteville Board of Education, said the district looked at several options before deciding on a single high school on the same site as the old one.
"We had two citizens committees that dealt with a number of important issues," he said. "The decision was made to stick with a single high school, to not divide the community."
Hudson said it was not financially feasible for the district to operate more than one high school. The neighboring city of Springdale, which has about the same population but operates two high schools, has almost twice as many students as does the Fayetteville district.
"From the way the numbers are looking, and projecting into the future, one high school that could accommodate 3,000 students will meet our needs for the next 20 to 25 years," he said.
The school is expected to open with about 2,400 students, with the ninth grade added to the high school with the new facility. The district has a total enrollment of about 8,600 students.
The district currently levies a property tax rate of 42.8 mills, or $42.80 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The property tax rate has not been increased since 1995. In Arkansas, property is assessed at 20% of its appraised value.
The higher tax would raise the school tax bill for the average taxpayer by almost $163 per year, the district said. The average home in the district is valued currently at $166,000.
Moody's Investors Service rates the district's GO bonds as A1, based on its participation in the Arkansas School District Enhancement Program.
The new school would be built on a hilly 40-acre site adjacent to the main campus of the University of Arkansas. It would consist of several buildings housing five small learning communities, based on age or academic interest.
Structures at the high school campus would be built in two phases.
The school will feature the latest in education technology, with broadband Internet connections that would allow students to take courses at other schools and universities.
The facilities are to be constructed in accordance with environmentally friendly building practices established by the U.S. Green Building Council. Those practices are expected to add 2% to the final construction cost, the district said.