Early voting began Monday (May 7), and Fort Smith Public Schools (FSPS) as well as members of the Friends of Fort Smith support group are gearing up for a final push to ensure passage of the proposed millage increase.
FSPS Communications Director Zena Featherston Marshall told Talk Business & Politics the district would have buses available at Northside and Southside High School graduation ceremonies May 17 and 18 to transport graduating seniors who are registered to vote to polling centers. Also, the Supervised Program in a Caring Environment (SPICE) after-school program will extend its hours to allow parents more time to get to the polls.
From the business community, Jason Green, Vision 2023 Citizens Committee head and vice-president of human resources at ABB/Baldor, urged voters to support the proposed increase to 42.058 from the existing 36.5, a 5.558-point move expected to fund $120.822 million in safety, facility, and technology improvements for the school district.
Green told Talk Business & Politics that some of the committee as well as others outside of it — “40-50 in all” — were doing “a number of different things to educate voters, encourage them to vote, and encourage them to vote for the millage proposal.”
“We’ve established a Facebook page, which we’ve gotten some great participation and awareness from, as well as a website. For the last two Saturdays, and we’ll do it again this Saturday, we’re going door-to-door in the community, talking to registered voters, to help make sure they understand what the millage proposal is about, and to ultimately ask them to support this critical investment in our community. We’ve got a number of individuals who have volunteered their time and efforts as part of this committee, and these next three weeks will be critical for us going forward.”
There is no organized opposition to the millage.
Green said the door-knocking has resulted in a variety of experiences, “from those who are absolutely ‘Yes’ voters on the proposal and supportive of this investment” as well as “some individuals who are undecided, and we’ve experienced some individuals that aren’t supportive.”
“So those that maybe are undecided or a ‘No’ — we’re really trying to spend time with them, to make sure they understand the details. All the various parts of the proposal. So hopefully, they’ll see it in their hearts to support the initiative when they go to the polls themselves.”
Green said he felt fortunate that all voters, no matter where they stood on the issue, were “receptive to engaging with us in conversations and dialogue of various sorts about the millage proposal and why it is so critical to this community to pass.”
“Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, business owner, homeowner, product of the Fort Smith Public Schools, or if you have friends or family who are employed by the district, every single person benefits from this investment. I like to think of it as a perfect example that a rising tide is going to lift all boats, and I’m convinced this millage proposal will do just that.”
As far as any direct get-out-the-vote efforts such as taxiing to the polls, Green said the group of supporters hasn’t “planned anything like that, but if somebody needed the support, we certainly would be there.”
“We’ll be out and about in the community throughout early voting and on election day helping people understand what the millage proposal is all about and hopefully encouraging them to vote for it,” he said.