In the aftermath of voters rejecting a millage increase, Dollarway School District stakeholders differ in opinions on the state of its facilities.

In the aftermath of voters rejecting a millage increase, Dollarway School District stakeholders differ in opinions on the state of its facilities.


Dollarway Superintendent Patsy Hughey said the district is caught between a proverbial rock and a hard place. She said the district does not have money in its budget to make changes. But teachers and students are dealing with what she called substandard facilities.


The biggest problem is the James Matthews Elementary School roof has holes. As a result, water drips into the building, and distracts students and teachers, she said. For the time being, they have put buckets to catch water.


Assistant Superintendent Melvin Bryant is looking at bids to fix the Matthews roof, she said.


Hughey said the Dollarway High School boys visiting locker rooms are decrepit. As a result, visiting student-athletes refuse to use them, she said.


"Most teams do avoid the locker rooms because of their conditions," Hughey said. "The showers do not work. I do not know what plumbing and showers cost. We have had a lot of vandalism and broken doors. We have not spent money to address it. But we have to be cognizant of how we spend money."


She advocated for people to volunteer their services to fix buildings.


"A little paint goes a long way," Hughey said. "We need to reach out to the community. There may be people who can fix things."


As it currently stands, Dollarway will not be holding another millage election. At a Tuesday meeting, Dollarway board members Ruth Bogy, Billie Sanders Lankford, Cleollia Robinson, Dorothy Singleton and Gene Stewart voted against having another millage election and board members Irene Murphy and Charles Girley voted for it.


This development follows Dollarway patrons rejecting a proposed 6.7-mill increase to the current millage rate by a vote of 343-297 on Tuesday, Sept. 15. The current rate is 40.8 mills. If the 6.7-mill increase had been approved, for example, on a house with an appraised value of $100,000, the owners currently pay $408 a year. Under the now-defeated proposed increase, they would have paid $475 annually — a difference of $67.


According to supporters, the proposed millage increase would have paid to construct a Dollarway High School auditorium, 15 classrooms, a cafeteria, a new turf football field, gym lockers, multipurpose weight rooms, lights and concessions stands, a new field house, a new roof at James Matthews Elementary School and other facilities. Some money would have increased teacher salaries.


Stewart said the district spent $10,000 last month to hold the election. Now that the voters have rejected the millage question, there is no reason to pose the same question, he said.


He said most of the district buildings are adequate.


"I have had many constituents make comments about the number of elections," Stewart said. "We are losing students. There is no guarantee that we will stop losing students. Taxpayers fear paying a substantial increase in taxes for facilities that will not be used. Several million dollars would be spent to construct a stadium and field house. Voters are not inclined to pay that type of money. I believe patrons would be receptive to increase teacher salaries by an increase of two mills to three mills."


Dollarway High School Principal Jeff Spaletta said the staff at DHS would be more comfortable with their working environment and jobs if the facilities were better. He said these factors may be part of the problem with high staff turnover over the years. The current facilities need constant repair, he said.


Spaletta said the Dollarway High School would be a different place with new buildings and a technology curriculum for engaging students. He hopes to receive a New Tech High School grant.


Athletic Director Lee Hardman said he thinks students deserve new facilities. He had advocated for people to support the rate increase as a basis to enable students to be educated.


"I think it will hurt our students more than anything else," Hardman said of the voters rejecting the millage increase. "I think new academic buildings would help."