Tuesday, voters in Ashdown School District turned down a proposed $3.9 million tax increase to build a new elementary school. Unofficial numbers show 564 voted for the $15.4 million bond measure, with 677 voting against. According to the Little River County Clerk's office, there are 5,124 registered voters in the Ashdown School District. There are also 88 voters in Sevier County who are eligible to vote in the election, as they live in the Ben Lohman area, which is part of the school district.
Voters also turned down a similar measure last year, with that one failing by 38 votes.
Superintendent Jason Sanders said he and the board are going to sit back, take a breath, and make a plan on how to improve the district's existing schools.
"I want to express thanks to all those who worked hard to get this passed, those to took the time to come to meetings," he said. "Of course we're disappointed, but the sun came up this morning and it'll come up tomorrow. Now, we're going to do our best to educate our kids and prepare for the future."
The proposed increase would have raised the tax rate from $35.7 million to $39.6 million. The $15.4 million generated by the increase would have been used to consolidate all three elementary campuses into one and make some improvements at the junior high building.
Ashdown also received notice in June that they were eligible for $810,000 in partnership money from the state. Sanders said the full amount, which was determined by using a wealth index percentage of the $15.4 million bond amount, will not be available for them to use since the bond failed to pass. He said he's made calls to Little Rock to see what the next step will be, and if they can now get any money at all from the state.
"I'm going to do everything I can to secure as much of that money as I can," he said. If the district does not improve the schools within a four-year window, they lose the opportunity to use the state funds.
As for which school will be first on the list to be improved, Sanders said he didn't know at this point.
"That's the next step, getting everyone together," he said. "The leadership team and the board will begin the process at the next board meeting."