Voters say no to a ballot initiative to renovate Mountain Home, Ark. High School

Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 5:53 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2022 at 5:56 PM CDT
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MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (KY3) - Voters in a special election in the Mountain Home School District voted against a property tax increase that would have helped fund an approximately $40 million renovation project to the district’s high school building.

The special election saw a 14% voter turnout and was decided by a margin of just 16 votes:

- For: 1,592

- Against: 1,608

“Of course, the school is disappointed. You know the issue is not going away,” said Assistant Superintendent Allyson Dewey. “The issues that have occurred with the school are not going away. We have to deal with what is there, and no matter how someone voted, we just want help finding a solution.”

Since 1966, Mountain Home High School has seen several renovation projects, like its new gym built on top of the old one.

“A metal structure was simply placed over the top of the old campus,” said Superintendent Dr. Jake Long. “Now, thirty years later, we’re dealing with a 30-year-old exterior building with 60-plus year interior infrastructure.”

The district has worked for several months to inform voters of the reasons for the renovation project. The projects included improvements to theschool’ss cafeteria, library, administrative offices, classrooms, and laboratories.

“People say, ‘I can’t believe you’re not voting yes for our children,’ that’s not what it’s about. It’s about fiscal responsibility,” said Tom Jones, a Mountain Home taxpayer. “$46 million for a single school district seems a little extreme, in my opinion.”

Tom Jones is a disabled veteran who says his vote was influenced by community members like himself, who are on a fixed income. We are in an “era where everyone is tightening their belts” and feel the public systems should help by doing the same.

“These folks are already on a limited income, they’re elderly, they’re on social security, they’re on disability, and it’s just not fair,” he said Thursday. " I used to volunteer as a mentor at the school district; I’ve been inside the school on several occasions. Yeah, it’s an older building and could use some upgrades, but $40 million worth, it just seems extreme.”

While on the other side, many feel the upgrades are necessary to improve learning conditions and help the community continue to grow.

“It means a lot to me as a parent to make sure my child, who is still in the district, has a safe, clean environment that is conducive to her learning,” said Dewey. “As far as a member of the community, I want to attract as many folks to our area as possible because I want to continue to see our community to grow, and a school is the heart of a community as far as I am concerned.”

The district says over the next few weeks. It will continue to draw feedback from the public and educate voters on why they feel the project is needed.

“Over the next few weeks, the district is going to be listening to voters, listening to why voters voted no, or why voters didn’t vote at all,” said Dewey. “There’s going to be opportunities to do that, the first being August 25 starting at 5 p.m. We want to speak with people about the need and possible ideas to that.”

Although struck down, the issue could be seen on the ballot later, although millage issues can only be brought to a vote once per calendar year.

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