FORT SMITH (KFSM)—With a lot of recent changes with the Fort Smith School District, the board is considering postponing a vote for a millage increase.
The annual school election is set for September 2016, but the proposed increase will likely be put to a vote at another time.
“We’ve got to move it, maybe perhaps to April, to where we can get the attention on the children and the needs of the district,” school board member Jeannie Cole said.
“I think the whole idea of postponing the election on the millage is simply because I don't think anyone thinks it's going to pass,” board member Wade Gilkey said.
The tax hike would go toward more than $80 million in upgrades including building improvements, tornado shelters, a performing arts arena and a multipurpose arena.
“They have been running this district for 30 years on that same millage,” Cole said. “That’s quite the feat.”
The board is leaning to postpone the vote for several reasons.
Not everyone is sure where the money will go; Superintendent Benny Gooden is retiring in June, and some board members want to focus on hiring a new superintendent before promoting the millage increase. The school board has also had quite a bit of negative publicity for changing Southside High School’s rebel mascot.
“We know we made a lot of people happy with making that change, but we`re aware that we made some unhappy too,” Cole said.
Gilkey has been on the school board for eight months and said he’d rather the millage increase be up for a vote in next year’s September election.
“School board elections are special elections,” he said. “Now what we're asking the community to do is to pay another $30,000 to open the polls for a special-special election.”
Taxpayers who spoke to 5NEWS said they were for a millage increase, even if it requires more money for a special election in April.
“I think the education of kids is very important,” Cindy Hobson said.
“If it's going to go for the improvement of the school and something that's going to improve the city, then I'm for anything like that—if it’s not that much,” Denise Schmitt added.
School board members said they hope to make the millage increase less than three mills.
The board will vote on moving the increase to a special election in April next Monday (May 23).