Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fayetteville School District to Raise Teachers’ Salaries

Fayetteville School District will be able to bring teachers’ salaries more in line with the other large districts when schools open this year.

The increased salaries will cost the district some $4.5 million each year. But no tax increase was necessary, just some creative financing.

Voters in 2005 rejected a 4.8 millage increase, an increase that was touted as being necessary to raise salaries.

You may wonder then, as did I, how is this possible. Here’s what I’ve learned…

Transferring the West Campus to Northwest Arkansas Community resulted in savings of approximately $1.9 million. (High school students who had attended West Campus were absorbed into the main high school campus but caused little added expenses to the high school’s existing budget.)

Federal funding is expected to increase by about $500,000.

Normal growth will increase property tax revenues.

Now for the creative part of the financing – simply become a little less conservative when projecting the percentage of property taxes the district expects to receive.

In the recent past, the district budgeted as if only 90% of the property taxes would actually be collected. (Collecting all 100% of taxes just never happens in reality.)

But FSD has now changed their projection to 93%.

So, between normal growth and simply changing the projection rate, another $2.1 million becomes available.

There is no doubt the raises are necessary to recruit good teachers. Fayetteville had previously offered a first-year teacher a salary of only $36,000. Springdale offers $40,521, Rogers $41,000, and Bentonville $40,503. Fayetteville will now be able to pay a novice teacher a starting salary of $40,500.

Arkansas law requires a minimum pay of $28,611 for new teachers. While some school districts actually do pay that little, no district in NW Arkansas would be able to hire teachers for that pittance.

Additionally, Fayetteville will now be able to raise salaries for experienced teachers. Again, the raises are necessary to keep good teachers. Fayetteville teachers will now top out at $65,301, Springdale $69,021, Rogers $67,088, and Bentonville $64,170.

It’s interesting to note the Little Rock School District, the largest public system in the state with 26,600 students, has a starting salary of only $31,595 and tops out at $61,549.

Good teachers are worth every penny they earn. Let’s be glad they will get a well-deserved raise.

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Fayetteville High School - Where, When, and How?

Few things affect an entire city as much as the quality of its schools. As I noted in my blog posting March 17, 2007, Fayetteville’s School Board has voted to add 9th grade to high school and maintain only one high school. Obviously that vote killed speculation about keeping the present high school and building a second school elsewhere.

The school district owns 100 acres in Fayetteville’s northwest corner where a new school could be built. Advocates say it would be modern, have all the latest technological bells and whistles, provide better security to students and faculty, and would presumably inspire and facilitate a desire for knowledge in its student body.

It would also be on the ‘other’ side of I-540, miles away from central Fayetteville. Many people feel strongly that location is too far away from the central part of the city.

So far no one has stated that is the only site under consideration, but given the price of land in NW Arkansas and the amount of land needed, there are few alternatives.

Some people feel building at the new site would actually be less expensive because the current high school buildings and land could be sold – for anywhere between $39 million and $61 million.

If the 100-acre site in NW Fayetteville were sold, it would bring in approximately $6 million.

The Fayetteville City Council recently endorsed keeping the high school at its current location, a decision with a considerable number of backers. While that decision has no binding effect on the school board, it does clarify the council’s opinion.

However, members of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce favor building a new high school at an unspecified site.

The pros and cons are numerous and so are the memories and traditions attached to the existing school. But we must move beyond emotions and make some tough decisions.

Here’s the way I see it:

It going to cost a lot of money – whether it’s a new school or enlarging the existing school.

As far as I can determine, no one has actually determined what size high school should be built – 3,000 students, 4,000 students, or possibly more.

If we don’t know what size is needed and we don’t know where to place it, how can the cost be estimated?

A new high school would probably not be ready until at least 2011. Predictions call for approximately 2,700 students in grades 9-12 by 2011. Board members indicated they expect the district to have a relatively slow growth rate in the future – perhaps a maximum of 2%. At that rate, it will take until 2017 to reach 3,000 students.

The school district will have to call an election, probably in 2008, for a millage increase. At 43.8 mills, Fayetteville’s school taxes are already the highest of any district in NW Arkansas.

Fayetteville voters have, in recent years, been reluctant to pass millage increases. The largest millage increase passed by voters in the past 20 years is 4%.

The school board is facing some very serious issues. No matter what they decide, there will be happy and unhappy residents. If the unhappy people don’t join the other side, passage of a millage increase seems doubtful.

Let’s all stay informed as the discussions continue and please, let no one forget the most important point of all – the education of our children. They deserve the best education possible.

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