Alma voters turned out in record numbers for the school election Tuesday, rejecting a millage increase that would have paid for stiffer security at Alma schools while choosing the newest - and youngest - school board member.
A 1.2 millage increase for Alma School District was voted down Tuesday by 61 percent of the 1,730 residents who visited the polls, said Crawford County Clerk Teresa Armer. This was a record number of voters for a school election, she said.
Alma voters rejected the school millage increase by voting 1,048-668 against it. It was the first year a school millage issue has come up for vote in 19 years, said Assistant Superintendent Ronnie Newton.
Alma school officials asked district voters to increase the district’s property tax millage by 1.2 mills for extra security. The increase would add an estimated $196,160 a year in revenues, with $135,000 going toward salaries for three additional school resource officers, while $60,960 would go toward debt payment on a $1.3 million bond.
Money from the bond would have covered costs of installing security cameras, enclosing open-space classrooms, and entrance and office changes at all four schools.
Though the millage was voted down, Newton said school officials still plan to pursue increasing school security as they are financially able. With school enrollment numbers down, the district may be facing budget decreases in the next school year.
"We still want to do those things, but certainly the time table is going to be a little more different," Newton said. "We are going to do our best to start working on them as soon as we can."
Alma voters also decided one contested school board seat, choosing Mark "Chapen" Rucker of Rucker Fine Homes to fill the district’s Position 4 seat being vacated by Richard Craft. Rucker defeated attorney Rinda Baker 1,152-540.
Craft had been with the school board for 20 years, and his was the first seat to come open without an incumbent filing to keep the position in 13 years, Newton said. Rucker, 29, said he was "very excited" about the win.
"I put in a lot of hours and a lot of hard work, and had support from a lot of people," Rucker said. "I’m very appreciative of the people who got out and voted."
Rucker is ready to get started working with the more experienced board members on safety and enrollment issues, he said.
"We need to make sure we are the most appealing district in the region to build that growth," Rucker said. "And we still need to think about safety going forward. Even though the millage was defeated, it gives us a good opportunity to look at cost effective ways to improve school security for students."
Mountainburg voters approved in a 58-11 vote a renewal of the school millage at Mountainburg for bond restructurings that will go toward needed maintenance projects. The vote will extend the 14.1 mills property tax, keeping the school millage at 39.1 mills.
The millage will go for restructured bonds to pay for updates and maintenance projects at the district’s elementary, middle and high schools, said Superintendent Dennis Copeland in a previous interview. The projects at the three schools include plumbing, roofing, electrical, and heating and air-conditioning, he said.
Mountainburg has been approved for a state matching grant for the projects totaling about $4.7 million, with the school district paying 34 percent of the project costs - a total of about $1.6 million.
The two bonds owned by the district were set to be paid off in nine years; the new bond would extend another 11 years to garner the needed income, Copeland said.
MAHG Architecture was hired to begin the design process for the renovations, with construction at the three schools in 2013-2015, Copeland said.