Proposed tax increase in West Memphis to build new schools being debated by residents

WATCH: Tax increase proposal in West Memphis

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — West Memphis School district leaders said they're pretty confident a proposed 7.5 millage increase is going to pass next month.

This will be the first time voters have been asked to increase the millage since 1953.

FOX13 found out exactly how much that could cost each household per month and what this means for families.

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The mayor and superintendent of West Memphis told parents and community leaders Monday that a 7.5 millage increase to build two brand new schools is a must.

FOX13 found out that could cost the taxpayer anywhere from $6 to about $43 dollars extra each month.

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"For me, I think that's a little too high to be coming out the paycheck," said Ben Smith.

Smith, who has two grandchildren in the district, said families like his will take a big hit financially if the millage passes.

"People is struggling right now trying to make ends meet. I don't think a lot of them can afford to have that much money coming out of their paycheck," Smith said.

FOX13 reported earlier this year the district received $22.4 million from the state for new schools.

Superintendent Jon Collins said the district has to match the amount or risk losing it all, which could put them right back where they started.

"It's going to build the morale and put our educators that work with those children in a much safer modern environment than they've been working in," he said.

Collins showed FOX13 sketches of what the newer schools would look like. Collins said the current buildings are aging.

They will replace two of the oldest schools like West Junior High, which was built in 1948.

"You've got the older walls, the floors. I don't even know what type of installation they have in the building anymore. Last time I used the sinks don't have any hot water," said Heather Thornton, who supports the increase.

Although parents like Thornton support the increase, others said they don't know where they will get the additional money from.

"I'm paying all my bills by myself, I ain't got no kind of help," Smith said.

Voting on this issue is set for September 10.

New Wonder Junior High is the second oldest building. The superintendent said it was built in 1964.

If everything passes, students will likely go in the new buildings in August 2022.