West Memphis voters to decide on tax hike for school improvements

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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — School leaders in West Memphis, Arkansas are asking taxpayers to help fund two new junior high schools.

The money would come in the form of a millage rate increase, meaning additional taxes for homeowners.

West Junior High would be one of two schools undergoing a huge transformation if the millage tax rate increase passes in September. The structures have gone untouched since the 1940s and 1960s.

School leaders say this would be the first hike since 1953. If approved the current rate of 29 mills, would go to 36.5.

In simpler terms, a homeowner with a house valued at $100,000 dollars would pay an extra $12.50 per month in taxes.

But those opposed to the rate increase say it's because there are more pressing issues to tackle first.

Friday, those for and against the millage rate increase were sounding off.

West Memphis Superintendent Jon Collins feels that's a small price for the city's future leaders.

"If we want to set West Memphis on a course for prosperity and growth and economic development, we obviously have to make an investment in our children," Collins said.

But not everyone is in favor of the rate increase. Crittenden County NAACP President Shabaka Afri'ka says it's not that he's saying 'no,' just 'not yet' until other changes are made.

"We want to make sure a percentage of contracts go black contractors and vendors and female contractors and vendors," he said.

Afri'ka feels in a city that's predominately African American, they too should have a seat at the table when it comes to who helps in the rebuilding process.

"This is about holding those in charge of the power accountable to diversity and justice."

Taxpayers also seem to be torn at this time.

As things stand, the state is giving the district $22.4 million for the two schools. But the city has to match it.

If not, they could essentially forfeit that $22.4 milllion dollar and that money would have to be sent back to the state."

West Memphians must decide either through early voting or when they head to the polls Sept. 10.

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