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Millage defeats on last week’s Hempstead, Nevada County ballots were not binding

Two millage items on ballots in Hempstead and Nevada County have been the cause of confusion for those interpreting last week’s 2022 election returns.

In Hempstead County voters living within the boundaries of the Spring Hill School District came in against that district’s 41.8 mill property tax, 253 to 215.  In Nevada County, voters within the Prescott School District turned down that district’s 41 mill property tax 737 to 683. Each mill is one part per thousandth of a dollar or a tenth of one percent. A 41.8 mill property tax would require payment for 4.18 percent of the worth of a given property. A 41 mill would require a 4.1 percent payment.

One could be forgiven for believing these results mean both districts face extensive cuts in funding, but according to the officials concerned, this is not the case.

Concerning the Spring Hill School District’s results, Hempstead County Clerk Karen Smith said the vote against does not end the millage or reduce the property taxes for those living within the boundaries of the district. She said the ballot item is required to be there due to Arkansas law. More specifically put, Arkansas Code Annotated Subsection 25-80-102 requires all Arkansas school districts to put their current millages on the ballot every two years.

The results of the ballot item, whether for or against, would not count if the millage has already been adopted by the district in a previous election. Instead, the millage would continue under the terms under which it first passed, according to Arkansas Code Annotated Subsection 25-80-102, item 3A, which says:

“In the event a majority of the qualified electors voting in the school election disapprove the proposed rate of tax, then the tax shall be collected at the rate approved at the last preceding school election.”

Since the rate approved at the last preceding school election in Prescott was 41 mill, and in Spring Hill was 41.8 mills, they continue to apply.

That this interpretation of the results of the two apparently failed millages is the prevailing one was also corroborated by Prescott Schools Superintendent Robert Poole and Prescott School Board Member Mary Harrison.

Poole said in an email that he understood the confusion about the ballot item and the results, “People see that on the ballot and their initial response will be to check no. I don’t blame them. I am still confused why that has to be on every ballot.  I hope we don’t have to go the voters ever to increase a millage.  Millages are the last resort.”

Harrison said, when reached by Facebook messenger, “After further investigation it was something that had to be put on there according to some law … according to the county clerk. The fact that it didn’t pass will not affect the school. The millage will remain the same and the school is financially doing fine at the moment. If we need to pass a millage in the future, I am sure the community will know well ahead of voting time.

So neither Spring Hill nor Prescott Public Schools are facing revenue cuts as a result of the November 8 election results. The property tax rate to help pay for the schools, meanwhile, will remain the same.

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