In a 1,360-959 vote, Greenwood School District voters resoundingly said no Tuesday to a 2.8 mill property tax increase to fund construction of a new elementary school.
The election results won't be official until they are certified by the Sebastian County Election Commission. A mill equals a 10th of a percent, and the increase would have raised property taxes by about $56 a year for a home with an appraised value of $100,000.
It was the second time district officials unsuccessfully asked voters for a millage increase to fund growth-related improvements. The district had asked for a 5 mill increase in 2008. This time, the district faces being declared in facilities distress by the Arkansas Department of Education, Division of Public School Academic Facilities, which a year ago found it had a deficit of 38,000 square feet of space in its elementary schools. The state estimated the district will have 4,415 students by 2018. Current enrollment is 3,550. Over the past five years, it gained 366 students.
The district also stands to lose a $12 million, 20-year term, low-interest Qualified School Construction Bond issue if it cannot commit to it by the end of the month.
The millage increase would have paid off the bond issue and enabled construction of an 80,000-square-foot elementary school on land donated by the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority.
The failure of the millage increase means district officials cannot ask for another increase until 2011.
Initially in the interim, the district will probably have to use portable buildings to house its overflow students, and officials have concerns about that because the state Department of Education does not consider such buildings to meet its "safe, warm and dry” requirements, Johnson said.
The district had already planned to reconfigure grades in existing school buildings for the 2010-11 school year. That plan will not help with future enrollment growth, Johnson said.
"It won't give us any extra classrooms, but it will allow us to accommodate appropriately the students we have,” she said.