A couple of special elections to watch today, for a bond refinance plan to pay for a new high school at Sylvan Hills and for a sales tax to make improvements in Pine Bluff.
* The Pulaski County School District wants voters to approve extension of 14.8 debt mills that would expire in 2035 by 13 years to float a $66 million bond issue (repayment cost $132 million with interest) for building a high school able to accommodate 2,200 students and consolidate separate campuses for ninth graders and 10-12 graders.
The campaign has been low-key, aimed mainly at Sherwood voters who presumably would like to see an improved campus and also to get it in shape for what many hope is the eventual secession from the county district, which surrounds Little Rock and North Little Rock, save Jacksonville. That area broke off a few years ago.
Pulaski School District politics are tricky because it covers such disparate territory — upscale Chenal Valley, the separate community of Maumelle and the minority-heavy area southeast of Little Rock. Also, voters in the district are historically unfriendly to taxes, often voting against the routine millage that must be placed on the ballot each year even when no increase is being requested and which is
left in place regardless of the vote.
* Pine Bluff voters are being asked to approve a 5/8-cent sales tax for seven years to generate $32 million for city improvements, money that a private group said will be enhanced by private contributions. The measure has a broad base of community
Ideas include a municipal master plan; an “urban renewal” program for problem property; a park and downtown square; a youth center; a downtown historical district; an annual Celebrate the Delta Festival; a police relations program; support for neighborhood associations; a city marketing plan; a planning and development employee; new walking/biking trails; an annual basketball tournament; an annual baseball tournament; an Innovation Hub for small businesses; workforce training; a teacher incentive program; blight removal; a regional park; help for affordable housing.
UPDATE: early voting in Pine Bluff was strongly pro-tax: 1,717 to 654
Pulaski school voters also went heavily for the tax in early voting, 546 to 219.
Big margins are continuing in both elections as additional votes come in. Final tally in Pine Bluff was 3,831 to 1,708.
In the school voting it was 2,628 to 1,337.