With some semblance of normal returning, the Batesville School District has decided to try to finish up some business that started in late 2019.

At Monday’s regular school board meeting the Board of Directors voted unanimously to request a special election on Tuesday, Sept. 14. The purpose of the election is to ask voters within the district for a millage increase.

The Independence County Election Commission met Wednesday at noon and approved the special election.

Dr. Michael Hester, superintendent, made a brief presentation to the commission, telling the group that the pandemic put the district behind when it came to financing construction.

“We’ve already spent a million dollars of taxpayer money buying trailers. If we don’t have this election we’ll probably have to spend another million. It’s time for labor and construction,” Hester said.

The board approved the measure unanimously to purchase four trailers on Monday night, two of which will be placed at Eagle Mountain Elementary and one at West Elementary at the BJHS.

Hester said having trailers as classrooms was detrimental to the students, district and taxpayers.

Because of the high property taxes in the area, the district did not receive much in the way of COVID-pandemic recovery funding.

“Other districts get to shop with food stamps and we get to shop with coupons,” Hester said.

Commissioners approved the election, but voted against having only five voting locations, four on school campuses and an additional site at the Batesville Community and Aquatics Center.

Batesville resident Nathan Grant spoke out against the election on behalf of taxpayers.

“I always disagree with special elections. We don’t need to be one of the most heavily taxed school districts in the state. Only having five voting sites would skew it towards the school,” Grant said.

After comments, the commission had a discussion and decided to have all voting sites open on the day of the special election.

“Voters rather have all the regular voting sites people are accustomed to, so everyone in the county can decide,” said Lea Ann Barber, election commissioner.

Reasons for suggesting limiting the voting sites to included keeping the cost of the election down and providing a clean, safe place for voters to cast their ballots.

“We worked a Presidential election last year and didn’t have any problems with safety,” said Barbara Henson, election commissioner.

Chairman Randy Seale oversaw proceedings, and election coordinator Cathy Drew was present also.

It’s the same request the district brought forth in 2019, a campaign entitled “Secure Our Future.” The COVID-19 pandemic halted the district’s efforts to seek the millage increase.

But now, because of monetary programs that the district has been able to take advantage of, the ask by the BSD isn’t quite as daunting to taxpayers. Instead the original 8.41 mill increase, the district is now asking for 5.95.

Hester says that growth within the district has been steady.

“The Batesville School District (BSD) continues to grow in enrollment, even through the pandemic,” Hester said in a statement to the Batesville Guard. “We all value onsite learning more than ever after this last year of remote learning and quarantines.”

As he stated to the Election Commission on Wednesday, Hester said, “ We regret that we have to purchase more trailers to get us through this classroom shortage crisis but that’s why we need the community to understand our classroom and safety needs”.

“We are proud to announce that the Board of Directors and District Administration were able to reduce the previous millage request from 8.41 mills to 5.95 mills,” Hester said. “What that means to our patrons is for every $100,000 worth of property you own, we are now asking $9.92/month instead of the previous $14 per month – a 30 percent reduction. This will help us create 102 PreK-12 classrooms, with six storm shelters and secure 62 school entrances in the district.”

Other monies that have been needed to make building repairs including a new floor in the high school cafeteria after a sewer issue required pulling up tiles to make repairs.

Assistant Superintendent David Campbell said he district would like the tile replaced in the high school cafeteria, since we will be cutting a couple holes in it to fix the sewer line this summer and it already has several different colors of tile.

“We have had to replace tile over the years and this would be a great opportunity to give it a new clean look,” Campbell said.

Total cost of the project is $31,056.08.

“This is also a move to standardize all tiles through each building and district,” Campbell added. “We can keep some stock for repairs and maintain a solid, continuous look.”

The board approved the request unanimously.

Hester added in his statement regarding the millage request that in the last four years, BSD has made tough budget decisions, reduced the district facility footprint, increased energy efficiency and balanced personnel resources at each campus to be the best fiscal managers with what we have.

“This last year during the pandemic we took advantage of the time by paying off indebtedness, refinancing debt, and finding partnership grants to reduce this facility bond issue millage,” Hester said. “Now, we’re asking for the community to be informed and vote on September 14 to “Secure Our Future.’ Thank you for your kind consideration.”

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