Grassroots activist group Arkansas Community Organizations announced its support for the proposed 2.3-mill increase for the Watson Chapel School District during a meeting Thursday afternoon at Gospel Temple Missionary Baptist Church.
The increase to the current millage rate of 31.8 would be used to build a new building for kindergarten and first grade on the current campus of Edgewood Elementary School.
Maxine Nelson, ACO president and Watson Chapel School District board member, said that her organization is supporting the measure that will be on the May 14 ballot because of a commitment to public education.
“We come out today to announce our endorsement of the millage increase,” Nelson said. “We have always been a proponent of quality public education because without it so many children would not get a quality education. We want our future generations to be in a clean, safe building that is conducive to education.”
Watson Chapel board president Sandra C. Boone addressed the group of nine supporters of the measure taking part in the announcement.
“Thank you, ACO, for endorsing us,” Boone said. “It is crucial that we get this millage passed. This is our second chance and the state only allows two chances. If it is not passed there is a strong possibility that the state will take over this school district. The average family with a $50,000 home will pay just $23 more per year which is the same as buying one 20-ounce soda every month for a year.
“The current building at Edgewood Elementary has its classrooms open to the outside and this is unsafe in today’s world,” Boone said. “The oldest part of the building contains asbestos and we all know how dangerous that material is.”
Boone said the only use for the funds generated by the increase millage would be for the construction of the new school building.
“The current Edgewood building is 54 years old,” Boone said. “The new building is very much needed and will increase the value of the community. If anyone asks, tell them that the only thing that can be done with the money is build the school. Our last millage increase was in 1974. Even when the increase is passed we will still have a far lower millage rate than most of the state.”
Boone said district patrons should encourage others in the district to vote.
“You can’t get this millage passed by ignoring the African-American community,” Boone said. “We have to do what is best for our students. Now some may say, ‘well, my children are grown,’ but every child in this community is yours. By that I mean that depending on how they are educated they will be a positive for the community or a negative for the community.”
Boone said the voices of those against the measure must be drowned out.
“We can’t let naysayers defeat us,” Boone said. “We must push forward. I support teachers wholeheartedly but we must also support our students.”
Early voting starts soon
Early voting will be held from 8:30 until 5 p.m. May 7 through May 10 and May 13 in the Office of the County Clerk at the Jefferson County Courthouse.
Absentee ballots may be obtained from the county clerk during normal business hours. Absentee ballots will be canvassed and counted in the Election Commission office May 14 beginning at approximately 5 p.m.
Votes cast on May 14 will be canvassed and counted at the Election Commission office beginning at approximately 7:30 p.m.
Election Day May 14 voting will be conducted at Matthews Memorial located at W. 20th Avenue and Highway 79 for precincts 301, 302, 303, 306, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 315, 316, 317, 323, 417 and 418; Goodfaith-Carr Methodist located at 3703 Ryburn Road for precincts 51, 53, 56, 57, 59, 313, 314, 321, 322, 324, 325, 326, and 327; Gospel Temple Baptist Church at 1100 Oakwood for precincts 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 413, 414, 415, and 416; and Sulphur Springs Methodist at 9238 Sulphur Springs Road for precincts 52, 54, 55, 58, 66 and 67. Voting hours will be 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.