I, and I’m sure many of you, received a direct-mail piece from an organization called
“ Campaign to Continue Our Progress.” The group is touting the Pulaski County Special School District’s “refinancing plan.” They point out that it is not a new tax but the continuation of an existing millage and they list four reasons to vote for the millage extension. The punctuation is theirs.
1. IT IS A DISTRICT WIDE COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE!
2. SIGNIFICANTLY NEEDED IMPROVEMENTS
3. THE TIME TO INVEST IS NOW!
4. IT’S NOT A NEW TAX!
The direct-mail piece promotes passing the millage, which will primarily help Sylvan Hills High School with $65 million in improvements. Their logic is that when we improve a part of the district, it is good for all of us.
A few excerpts from their mailer:
These funds will address needs at Sylvan Hills to completely revitalize the school, including adding classrooms and labs, a new auditorium, cafeteria, arena and multifunctional building.
Sylvan Hills High School was built in 1967 for a student population of 850. Today our high school houses nearly 1,500 students!
Pulaski County Special School District can continue the long-term capital improvement plan that is making our schools stronger and better – without raising taxes! We can generate the $65 million dollars by extending a bond for 13 years and keeping your millage rate the same!
The group is sending out another mailer, which was posted on Facebook by State Rep. Mark Lowery (who endorses the millage) that must have been sent to residents near and around Sylvan Hills. All of the reasons to vote were specific improvements to the Sylvan Hills High School.
The special election is Tuesday, June 13 and is the only election being held on that date, which strategically guarantees a low turnout and a better chance to win if you turn out your supporters.
I spoke with Campaign to Continue Our Progress Co-chair Linda George about the group’s strategy and she agreed that getting the support from the Sylvan Hills area was critical to their success. George is a retired teacher and administrator who has a passion for the kids. “The school is using temporary buildings and we had to move the ninth graders to another campus five miles away, “ George said. “The school has one science lab and one computer and has to split auditorium use into three groups to watch an event,” she said. “A school district is a family and we have to support each other to ensure that all of the students are getting the quality education they deserve.”
I would assume those with interest in Sylvan Hills will turn out in large numbers. I predict Maumelle voters will be a hard sell. If most voters don’t have a dog in the hunt, they aren’t going to vote for anything.
I have often heard voters grumble that a school millage is of no concern to them because their kids are grown or they don’t live in the area. That’s like saying because you’re old and sick, they should quit doing medical research for your disease.
Interestingly, the early voting (June 6-9) locations are the Jack Evans Senior Center in Sherwood (near Sylvan Hills) or in downtown Little Rock at the Pulaski County Regional Building. All of the regular voting places will be open in Maumelle on June 13. The rest of the polls are scattered around the PCSSD school zones. In case you didn’t know, there are 27 schools in the district. Learn more about the issue and specifics at Facebook.com/continueourprogress.
Voters rejected a millage issue two years ago, supposedly because they didn’t have a school board. Little Rock voters soundly rejected a millage vote just a few months ago, again because there was no school board or unified voice supporting it.
It would be easy for Maumelle voters to ignore this election or vote against the millage extension. We have a shiny new high school, middle school and two elementary schools that are in relatively good shape.
Alicia Gillen of Maumelle, a PCSSD School Board member representing part of the Maumelle area, said: “The millage extension is a positive step towards progress and growth for PCSSD. While the direct benefit is targeted for one school at this time, the extension will lend itself to greater possibilities across the district in the future. There is a critical overcrowding situation at Sylvan Hills High School and the Board believes that the need of those students is our first priority.
“As that community thrives, it will bring in more students to the district as a whole. Many of the other projects, improvements and expansions throughout PCSSD will be able to be fulfilled with the increase in students moving into the district. This extension is not only a win for Sherwood, but also a win for all of the families across PCSSD. Voters also need to remember that this will not be an increase in your tax rate. Please, vote for our students on June 13th by voting for the millage extension.”
I echo Ms. Gillen’s encouragement to vote for the millage extension and will cast my ballot to bring our school facilities up to date.
See you on the Boulevard.
Neal Moore is a public relations and advertising consultant and freelance writer. If you have a community concern, news tip or if you’re just irritated about something, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, @kneelmore.