Cedar Ridge, Batesville millage proposals defeated during special election

INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – Two millage proposals were defeated during special elections in Independence County.

Cedar Ridge and Batesville were each asking voters to raise taxes so that they can step up security on their respective campuses.

The Batesville millage proposal was defeated by a landslide. 151 residents voted for the increase, while 851 voted against it.

In the Cedar Ridge School District, the millage increase was also defeated. We're told 111 voters voted for the increase, while 239 voted against it.

Voters in both districts seemed to support the idea of making the districts safer, but some are unsure why taxes need to be raised to do so.

"I'm anxious to see how the vote does go," said Cedar Ridge Superintendent Dr. Ann Webb.

Dr. Webb was hopeful that voters would have approved the proposal to raise the local property tax rate by an additional one mill.

"I'm always optimistic that the people will vote for safety and security, especially where students are concerned," she said.

Dr. Webb proposed raising the district's millage from 38.2 to 39.2. The extra revenue would have generated about $142,000 each year and would allow the district to staff two-full time resource officers and install more security equipment.

"I really would love to have panic buttons, at least two, in every school and one at every school secretary's desk," Dr. Webb said, "so that that would have a direct link to the [Independence County] Sheriff's Office in case anyone should come in and there should be a dangerous or a violent situation."

She says she'd be unable to make these upgrades without the millage increase because she's about to stretch the school budget to pay for new technology.

"I can cut back in some other areas, but every time I cut back that means that our students lose out," Dr. Webb said. "We really need more technology because the Common Core is here, and we are going to start testing on computers in the future."

Robert Marshall of Newark kept budget concerns like this in mind when he decided to vote against the proposal.

"I feel we need to look the situation over and be more conservative with our spending," Marshall said.

Voters in the Batesville School District weighed some of the same concerns.

"I don't think anyone is out there saying we shouldn't do these things," Batesville Superintendent Dr. Randy Willison said. "I think it's more of a matter of saying are they willing to support a tax increase or not?"

Dr. Willison wanted voters to pass a 1.25-mill increase so that his district's millage would go from 38.75 to an even 40.  He says that would help pay for new security measures, like manning each campus with a resource officer.

"We're certainly taking every [safety] precaution we can," he said, "but we can do better and that's what we're trying to do."

Several voters said off-camera Tuesday that they opposed the proposal to avoid paying higher taxes, but Laura Rumans of Batesville said she could see the benefit.

"We can't control everything in life," Rumans said, "but I just feel like this is one step in the right direction."

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