Tuesday, June 13, 2017

TOP STORY >> Millage vote will pay for new campus

By JOHN HOFHEIMER Leader senior staff writer

By a 2-1 margin Tuesday, Pulaski County Special School District voters approved an extension of the existing 40.7-mill property tax authorizing money for a new and reconfigured Sylvan Hills High School that could be ready for occupancy in fall 2019.

By a margin of 2,628 to 1,337, voters apparently agreed that the existing school, built for 880 students, is not up to the task of housing, feeding and educating the projected enrollment of 1,450.

Currently, the ninth graders are diverted to a “freshman campus” at the old Northwood Middle School and will go to the new campus.

The 17-year tax extension will generate about $66.5 million. About $60 million of that will be used to build new classrooms and science labs, a larger cafeteria and a large auditorium at Sylvan Hills and remodel much of the rest of the campus, he said.

Sherwood’s population has gained about 41 percent between 2000 and 2014.

“Hip hip hooray,” said PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess. He said the ballot included all the options, so the folks at Stephens Public Finance could advertise and sell the bonds without delay.

“We will sell them, use the proceeds for all fees and construction and to furnish, fix and equip the school,” Guess said.

Plan B would have been to move about 36 portable classrooms in behind the existing building.

The district may use the surplus revenues produced each year by the debt service millage for other school purposes.

WER architects has done preliminary drawings and should complete the plans later this year, according to Deborah Roush, PCSSD director of communications.

Dirt work for the construction, adjacent to and including the existing high school, could begin this fall, she said.

About 80 people gathered at the city-owned Greens Country Club in Sherwood for the election watch party and applauded warmly at 8 p.m. when PCSSD Board president Linda Remele announced an early vote count of 546 for extending the tax, 219 against. Then the waiting began in earnest.

The Pulaski County Election Commission posted the final but unofficial totals at 9:30 p.m. to the appreciative gathering.

Among those present were Guess, Roush, Chief Operating Officer Derek Scott, Sher-wood Mayor Virginia Hillman Young and Sherwood aldermen Marina Brooks, Beverly Williams, Mike Sanders and Ken Keplinger.

From the WER, the firm designing the high school, Eldon Bock and Russ Fason were there.

The gathering was fueled by a cash bar, cookies, fruit, brownies and Popeye’s fried chicken.