School Districts Seeking Rate Hikes Win Two, Lose Three

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 66 views 

Voters in Arkansas school elections said yes to two school districts requesting millage increases Tuesday and no to three others.

Stuttgart voters approved a five-mill increase, 464-269, that would raise the district’s rate to 36.9 and pay for debt servicing, to purchase technology, and to renovate the junior high school.

Vilonia voters approved a one-mill increase, 460-146, that would raise $7 million for an intermediate school and safe rooms at Vilonia High and Vilonia Primary School. That building project will be accomplished with $9 million in state funds as well as grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the safe rooms.

Voters in Cotter in Baxter County turned down a 3.8-mill request for construction projects that included a new auditorium and gymnasium.

In Hartford in Sebastian County, they said no to a 1.5-mill request that would raise about $36,000 a year for the fiscally distressed district.

Voters in rural Deer-Mount Judea voted against a 3.8-mill increase for debt service and school construction and renovation.

A mill is a tenth of one cent and is applied to real and personal property.

This year’s election was expected to draw a higher turnout of candidates to fill the approximately 1,500 seats statewide because school districts were required to redraw zones following the 2010 census. If a school district reaches 10 percent or greater minority population, it must divide into zones if it has not already done so.

But while candidate involvement was expected to be higher, voter turnout in school elections often can be low. In Little Rock’s zone seven, for example, a three-candidate race drew 435 ballots – 3.2 percent of registered voters. Incumbent Diane Curry was two votes short of avoiding a runoff, with overseas ballots yet to be counted.

School boards are made up of five or seven members and serve staggered terms of three or five years, depending on the district. Unlike in some other states, they are not paid for their service.

Being a school board member in Arkansas often is not considered a steppingstone to higher office. However, Sen. John Boozman (R) was a member of the Rogers School Board from 1994 to 2001 prior to being elected to the House of Representatives. Former Arkansas Governor and Senator Dale Bumpers (D) once served on the Charleston School Board before he launched his first gubernatorial campaign.

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