Millage meetings draw strong reactions from community members


Shyla Clayton

Brandon Decker reacts to John Steele’s comments on the millage increase amount at Tuesday’s meeting in Monette.

Cadyn Qualls and Shyla Clayton

“What can we do to preserve the rich heritage of our school?”

This was the question posed by superintendent Gaylon Taylor during a public meeting held Thursday in the East Elementary cafeteria.

Some would suggest that preserving the true authenticity of BIC would require making adjustments to the current buildings being utilized. However, many others would denounce this way of thinking, claiming that the problems – both visible and felt within the buildings – have gone beyond fixing and are presenting health and safety concerns.

Meetings were held on both campuses where many spoke their mind about the issue of building new schools.

Black Oak mayor and former BIC teacher Eddie Dunigan spoke upon the possibility of the Arkansas State Department deeming the school unsuitable during another public meeting held in Monette cafeteria on Tuesday. Dunigan said this occurrence would force students to attend neighboring schools such as Manila and Riverside.

He then broached the reality that many will be paying for a millage increase, whether it be BIC’s or others in the area. Though Dunigan vocally expressed his opinion on the option he supports, he also said he believes that BIC will take action in some form, regardless of the voting results.

“We may not pass a millage, but we will make improvements,” he said.

In previous meetings regarding the first two votes, main concerns mentioned included for the new buildings to be built in both towns instead of one over the other, a decrease in millage and safety rooms provided for the students.

The first vote, held in September 2014, included a proposal for a school that would hold grades K-12 between the two towns. The second failed vote still was for nine mills and included plans for a K-6 building in Leachville and 7-12 in Monette. The district has now requested seven additional mills and will be refunding the eight existing through 2046. These mills will be used to build a K-6 in Leachville and a 7-12 in Monette.

If the millage isn’t passed, Taylor is concerned that faculty numbers and student enrollment will experience a steady decrease. He went on to state that a school is only as good as its faculty. “Our teachers work extra hard because of lack of supply,” Taylor said. “When you lose this strong foundation of educators, you lose everything.”

Taylor also expressed that many wrong statements have been made within the public. One of these include the claim that there has already been a drop in enrollment. A slide was then shown with the numbers of student enrollment from 2005 to 2015. BIC has averaged around 802 students the past 11 years.

“You can’t lie about numbers,” Taylor said.

At this point, during the Monette meeting, John Steele asserted that if this millage passes, patrons would be paying on 15 mills for 30 years.

This was met by many people, one including Brandon Decker, who said that there would be seven additional mills, not 15. Decker went onto explain how this is all for the benefit of the kids.

“I am absolutely for the millage and it is not about anything but the kids,” Decker said. “That is what it should always be about. I would like to see everybody stick to the facts, and come out and vote yes. Remember it is for the kids.”