Early Voting Starts For Uncontested Fort Smith School Board Race, Millage Vote

FORT SMITH (KFSM) — Early voting started Tuesday (Sept. 12) for an uncontested school board race and millage vote.

Election officials said many people are confused about the millage vote on the ballot.

School board president Deanie Mehl said whether you vote “yes” or “no”, your current property taxes will stay the same.

“There's really nothing gained by voting against this millage,” she said. “We'll stay at 36.5 [mills].”

Mehl said the millage hasn’t changed in 30 years.

“We need to have a millage increase,” she said.

Although Mehl is stepping down as school board president, she said Southside High School and Ramsey Junior High need to be renovated. She said Kimmons Junior High need a new cafeteria, and both high schools in the Fort Smith School District desperately need tornado shelters.

“I do not want to be a focal point or in any way be detrimental to the chance of the millage passing,” Mehl said.

But, it’s unclear when voters could see a tax increase on a ballot. Some school board members said it could be as early as the spring, but superintendent Doug Brubaker has only been on the job for nine months. He said he is still determining the needs of the district.

“Really my perception is that it's a little premature to talk about going out for a millage,” Dr. Brubaker said. “We want to make sure all our funds are targeted to meet our current needs before we ask the voters for any more resources at this point.”

As for this school board election, Greg Magness is running unopposed to take Mehl’s seat.

“I'm very excited to turn my seat over Greg Magnus,” Mehl said. “He's going to do a great job.”

Election officials said the turnout has been low so far.

“This race is uncontested across the county, so it doesn't tend to draw people out to vote,” Dalene Neumeier said.

Resident Patricia Moore said she will not be heading to the pools.

“It doesn’t affect me,” she said.

Because this is an uncontested race, you can only vote early or send in an absentee ballot. There's no Election Day.

Polls will be open Wednesday (Sept. 13) through Friday (Sept. 15) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Monday (Sept. 18) from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

You can vote at the Sebastian County Courthouse in Fort Smith or Greenwood.

There will be a public input meeting at Ramsey Junior High next Monday (Sept. 18) from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

It will be the official kickoff of the district's strategic action plan to determine the needs for Fort Smith Schools.