FARMINGTON -- Voters in Farmington School District last week approved a 42.4-mill property tax rate and gave the OK for the district to restructure debt to issue new bonds for construction projects.
Out of 8,946 registered voters, 153 people cast ballots in the Feb. 9 special election, a turnout of only 1.7%. Of the total votes, 122 people (81%) voted in favor of the district's proposal and 29 people (19%) voted against it, according to the Washington County Election Commission website.
Jennifer Price, county election director, last week said Farmington had one provisional ballot that has yet to be verified. The commission most likely will certify the election results on Feb. 19, according to Price.
Travis Warren, Farmington School Board president, expressed his appreciation last week to voters on behalf of the school board.
"We're very excited we have a supportive community in Farmington that wants our district to proceed and prosper," Warren said. "We thank the voters for their support."
School Superintendent Jon Laffoon also said the board and district are grateful for the strong community support in Farmington.
"We will be able to create construction money we need right now, thanks to our community," Laffoon said. "We know it is rare that any district can capitalize on great interest rates and lower taxes for citizens while restructuring debt, so thank you to our community."
The Farmington school community has shown its support over time, Laffoon said.
"As we continue growing, we may need community support for a millage to build new campuses and provide additional salary for staff, but we are excited to take advantage of an opportunity to help our people, community and schools now," he said.
The ballot only had one question, asking voters to approve a school tax rate of 42.4 mills, with 25 mills dedicated to general operations and 17.4 mills dedicated to debt service. The debt service mills will be a continuing tax until the school retires the new bond issue, expected to have a maturity period of 30 years.
The millage rate approved reflects a millage rollback from 42.6 mills to 42.4 mills issued by the Washington County Assessor's office for 2020 because of growth in real estate assessments.
Kevin Faught, with Stephens Inc., said the election results will allow the district to issue new bonds not to exceed $16,490,000 to pay off a 2015 bond issue with a balance of $3,470,000 and a 2016 bond issue with a balance of $3,265,000. The new bond issue will generate an estimated $6-7 million in new money for school construction projects.
Faught said a new bond issue would be offered on April 13, with a May 4 closing date on the transaction. The district will receive its money on May 4, Faught said.
The district will use proceeds from the new bond issue to build an addition to the junior high school, along with possible expansions at Williams and Folsom elementary schools.
Farmington already has applied for state partnership money to help with the costs to build a new 23,000-square-foot facility for the junior high. A decision on this application should be released by the Arkansas Department of Education in early May.
In an email, Laffoon said an estimated timeline for construction of the junior high facility is to approve a civil engineering proposal in March and an architectural design fee in May.
Once all plans are ready and have been approved by the school and appropriate entities, then the school would begin the bid process in October, open bids in November and start construction in December, with an estimated completion date of December 2022.
Laffoon emphasized the construction timeline is not set in stone and could change.