Group lobbying for Fort Smith millage increase raises more than $68,000

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,186 views 

Friends of the Fort Smith Public Schools, the lobbying group raising and spending money in support of a millage rate increase for the school district, has raised $68,750 and entered May with $63,984 to spend on the campaign.

The group’s latest campaign report was posted Wednesday (May 9) with the Arkansas Ethics Commission, and includes a donation from Arvest Bank owner and Walmart heir Jim Walton. There is no opposition group formed on the issue.

The Fort Smith Public School Board on March 12 set a millage vote with the May 22 primary election. A 5.885 millage increase would fund $120.822 million in financed projects and $825,000 in annual recurring costs, with district-wide safety and security upgrades comprising approximately $35 million, or around one-third, of the total.

If voters approve, the new millage will move to 42.058 from 36.5. The effect to the average homeowner would be $9.26 per month per $100,000 in real estate value. This would affect “frozen assessment” properties as well. Voter registration is underway with early voting running from May 7-21.

Sam T. Sicard, group treasurer and president and CEO of First National Bank of Fort Smith, said the group’s strategy has been to focus on voter awareness, voter education and voter turnout.

“The entire budget raised by contributors is going towards achieving those goals. Campaign items include signage, a paid phone program, print and digital advertisements, video production, social media advertising, website, educational mailers, paid canvassers, collateral material (door hangers, buttons, stickers, etc). and volunteer supplies,” Sicard noted in an e-mail interview with Talk Business & Politics.

Sicard said no scientific polling has been conducted. He also said the money raised “is about what we expected.”

“Citizens and businesses in Fort Smith have been generous with funding the effort to pass the millage. They’ve all expressed interest in doing what they can to help pass the millage and move Fort Smith Public Schools beyond where they are currently,” he said.

Officers of the lobbying group are:
• President: Jason Green, a human resources executive with ABB in Fort Smith;
• Vice President: Christy Ivey;
• Vice President: Autumn Minnick;
• Vice President-Legal Counsel: Dalton Person; and
• Treasurer: Sicard.

Fort Smith Regional Council: $30,000
Arvest Bank: $5,000
Propak: $5,000
First National Bank: $2,500
BancorpSouth: $1,000
BHC: $1,000
ERC Holdings: $1,000
Littlefield Oil: $1,000
Northwest Fire Protection: $1,000
RiverFront Exploration: $1,000
Turnkey Construction Management: $1,000
Candy Craze: $500
Hanna Oil & Gas: $500
HBM LLC: $250
Nunnelee & Wright: $100

Jim Walton: $5,000
Jim Walcott: $2,500
Marty Clark: $1,000
Jason Green: $1,000
David Humphrey: $1,000
George Jackson: $1,000
Sam Sicard: $1,000
Cliff Ivey: $500
Stephen Young: $500
Curtis Ralston: $500
Dr. Andrew Riche: $500
Tim Allen: $250
Virginia Mehl: $250
Rodney Shepard: $250
Ken Wallace: $200
James Echols: $100
Gary Hogue: $100
Blair Parnell: $100
Darrell Stovall: $100
Gary Udouj Jr.: $50

Weldon Williams & Lick: $1,825.06 (mailers)
Northwest Fire Protection: $890.06 (sign-posts, food)
Arvest Bank: $351.20 (food)
Teri Bogner: $195.35 (food)
Sheila Humphrey: $97.46 (food)
Jason Green: $85.82 (food)