67-vote margin propels passage of millage issue to fund $19 million at Berryville Schools

Monday, September 25, 2006

BERRYVILLE A good turnout was reported for the Berryville School election, in which a millage request passed by a narrow five percent margin.

Nearly 1,300 district patrons cast ballots, with 679 voting for the 6.5 millage hike, and 612 against a 67 vote difference.

Patrons also elected new school board members during Tuesday s election. Joe Ward and Jack Edens garnered the most votes in a six-way race for two At-Large seats.

A total of 1,291 district patrons cast ballots, which was considered a good turnout for a school election, said Cathy Ellis, election coordinator.

Countywide, 1,920 ballots were counted by election officials election eve, with results reported shortly after 9 p.m.

Of those, 614 were from Green Forest district patrons, and another eight from early and absentee voters in the Eureka Springs school district where there were no issues to be decided.

The 6.5 millage increase passed by Berryville district voters was sought to fund a $19 million facilities improvement project, of which the state will pay $6 million.

Mike Cox, superintendent of Berryville Schools, was ecstatic.

I m excited for our kids, he said. The true winners are the students and future students. It will be so much better for them and the teachers.

The bulk of the money will be used to construct and equip a new third-through-fifth grade school, a new fine arts building for band and choir classes, plus a new multi-purpose building, new physical education facility, and renovation of the present band building into a new physical education facility.

We needed this, said Cox. We keep growing. We grew 74 kids this year and I don t think we re going to stop growing.

He attributed the success of the millage effort to those promoting the increase.

There were so many working and answering questions, he said. We didn t want to ask for an increase, but we are out of space. Even those who didn t support it will be proud of what we ll be doing. They ll see a difference. I m excited for our kids.

Lee Ann Jackson said she was also excited for the kids. As chairperson for the group promoting the millage hike, Jackson said the upcoming building projects will allow the district to handle up to 2,400 students. We re planning for the future, at least the next 10 years, she said.

Jackson praised the efforts of those serving on the committee, known as Citizens about Today s School for Tomorrow s Students.

The people who served on the committee are the heart of our community, she said. They worked very, very hard, and worked great together. They were the best.

Once the results were in, Cox said he was on the telephone the very next morning, lining out the upcoming construction projects.

He said there is a process to follow and he hopes to break ground next spring.

A bond sale is slated for Oct. 10, which is a sealed bid process, Cox said, with the district expected to sign with a lender offering the cheapest interest rate.

Cox said the district should have the $13 million from the bond sale in early November, and will likely put the money into a six-month CD to draw interest.

In the meantime, he said, the architect will develop construction documents from which contractors will bid the project.

It s another sealed bid process, he explained. We hope that will happen in March or April. Once we award the contract, it will be time to go to work. We re hoping to start doing dirt work in April or May. It s a step-by-step process.

Cox said he wasn t sure when the state would hand over the $6 million promised for the project.

It s a process to go through, he explained. We ll get everything rolling. I ve already started on it.

I m so proud of everyone who worked so hard on this, he added.

Results from the Berryville school board race were as follows: Jack Edens, 727 votes; Joe Ward, 453; Perry Butler, 342; Bobby Holman, 285; Pat Humphrey, 175; and, Matthew Sankovich, 69.

All election results are unofficial until the election commission meets Friday morning to certify those results.

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