Touring the unique joint City Hall/School Administration building in Pea Ridge, U.S. Senator John Boozman commended the foresight and cooperation of city and school leaders.
"Congratulations on the millage," Boozman said to Rick Neal, school superintendent. "The rest of the state views northwest Arkansas as the land of opportunity."
Boozman visited Pea Ridge Friday, listened to concerns expressed by Neal and Mayor Jackie Crabtree, then toured the building and greeted every employee.
Economy was one item of concern and both Crabtree and Boozman said internet sales tax may be a factor in improving the local economy.
"It's so important to your people on Main Street as far as competing," Boozman said.
Crabtree said the city has a one cent sales tax and derives funds from the one cent county tax.
"The average in Arkansas is about 9.5 percent," Boozman said, adding that internet sales increases are astronomical. "I voted for it both times."
Crabtree told Boozman that 76 homes were completed in town last year, adding to the growth of the school. "Overall, the school is growing," he said. "There are a few new businesses coming into town. Business follows population."
"Population is growing. The Walmart home office is going to move to the east side of Bentonville and that will be a help to us," Crabtree said.
"There's a lot to be said for living out a little bit," Boozman said of the small town atmosphere in Pea Ridge. "I know y'all are working hard and foreseeing the growth."
The joint venture of the building improved the community's perspective of the city and school working together, Crabtree and Neal said.
"Now they see us totally together; we're still separate," Neal said, "but people see us in the same building."
"The response from everybody has been positive," Crabtree said. "The community has so much pride in everything and what's going on here."
Neal said moving the administrative offices from the end of the high school to the new building freed space for classrooms as there were previously offices in rooms needed for classroom space.
"We needed a facility as a professional building as well for professional development, etc.," he said, adding that it didn't make sense for each entity to build a large facility separately with a court room used only a couple of times a month. Now, the room is used often by both the city and the school. "Put us together, that room gets used. It's a wise use of the taxpayers' money."
"You don't now how many people have come and toured this and asked how we work so well together," Crabtree told the senator.
"You have to think regionally if you're going to survive," Boozman said. "What's good for one of you is good for both of you. These are basic truths but so hard sometimes to get people out of their silos and thinking regionally."
Crabtree asked the senator if anything was "coming down the pike" that would affect Pea Ridge.
"Hopefully the tax cuts will spur the economy," Boozman said. "Salaries are starting to go up. Overall, I think the economy is starting to brighten up."
Boozman also referred to the new laws giving more local control over education.
Neal said the United States Department of Education Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has been adopted by Arkansas and the Pea Ridge School Board had just been educated on it.
"It's very extensive," Neal said of ESSA. "It gives the state and local more autonomy. We had quite a learning session."
Boozman said legislators are continuing to push the Department of Education so regulations are written within the spirit of the law. "We don't need unfunded mandates ... don't need overbearing, regulation for regulation as such." He said the attitude should be "how can we support you?"
General News on 02/21/2018
Print Headline: U.S. Sen. Boozman commends city, school leaders