by Max Brantley
Hats off to North Little Rock School District leaders who methodically built a campaign for a 7.4-mill school property tax increase.
It passed by a decisive 3,841 to 2,847. A 57 percent vote for a major tax increase is stunning and this turnout was large for a special election, about 20 percent of registered voters.
Looks like it carried in every precinct except two, at Calvary Baptist Church in Rose City and Levy Baptist Church.
Outgoing Mayor Pat Hays stood firmly behind this tax increase, despite some differences with the district over tax increment financing. The schools got a better result than his sales tax increase.
The district will take its construction plan to the state in March for state support. It hopes to begin construction in spring 2013.
PS — The school district election drew 6,688 voters, that's 1,400 more than the votes cast in the special sales tax election that lost by 140 votes. And the school district is significantly smaller than the city itself, so it go many more votes from a smaller playing field. The turnout was in the 35 to 40 percent range north of Interstate 40, in the higher income parts of the city. There are probably some lessons in this for city government and future political players, should they choose to take a look.
PPS — All of North Little Rock's school millage is now obligated to debt. That means it can't be captured for diversion to tax increment finance district use. The city could still create TIF districts that captured city and county property taxes, up to 10 altogether, on new developments. But this doesn't produce much.