Tuesday, May 12, 2015

TOP STORY >> Voters defeat higher millage

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

No new schools or improvements for Sherwood or most the rest of the Pulaski County Special School District.Patrons resoundingly turned thumbs down 7,206 to 2,352 Tuesday on a millage increase that would have improved or replaced every school and would have helped the district become unitary in facilities.

That was the final but unofficial result.

Of the 9,568 votes, 75 percent sent a clear message that they didn’t want a tax increase.

“This was a hard-fought effort,” said PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess. “We had a lot of good people that worked very hard, teachers, administrators, politicians, parents and others. It was a good plan, and it would have been a remarkable shot in the arm. A lot of people saw the opportunity.”

Guess said the district would use some of the final $20.7 million desegregation payment from the state and issue some second-lien bonds to press on with plan B, which is construction of a $50 million high school to replace Mills and then remodel the old high school for middle school students who otherwise would have attended Fuller.

“That was our commitment to (U.S. Dist.) Judge Price Marshall,” he said.

Guess said some of that final payment would go to the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District.

The 5.6-mill increase would have raised about $221 million to finance a $213 million building program that would have touched every student in the district.

In addition to scrapping plans for extensive work in the Maumelle and Robinson feeder systems, defeat of the increase also eliminates proposed changes in the Sherwood and Sylvan Hills schools.

The scope of work would have included a large addition to Sylvan Hills High School, making it basically a new school with additional classroom space, a new gymnasium and a new front approach to the school with a new fa├žade.

Sylvan Hills Middle School, although recently built, would have received needed restrooms at the practice and play fields.

Sherwood Elementary would have gotten a gym, a cafeteria and new parking.

Sylvan Hills Elementary would have received additional classrooms, air conditioning in the gym and paved parking.

Cato Elementary, with open-space classrooms, could have moved in about three years into the building that currently houses Northwood Middle School.

Voters living within the boundaries of the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District were not eligible to vote and would not have paid increased property taxes.