PULASKI - The Pulaski school district is getting some of what it wanted in the April elections. The question now is what to do next.
Voters in the district narrowly passed one of four questions on the ballot Tuesday by just seven votes; and absentee ballots must still be counted.
The approved question authorizes the district to spend more than $4.3 million on building maintenance and security upgrades. That will cost taxpayers about $9 more a year for property valued at $100,000.
The other three questions failed. One would have spent $650,000 a year for seven years to improve technology and infrastructure. Another would have spent more than $9 million for additions and remodeling to existing schools. A fourth would have spent nearly $8 million for a new activity center, which would have included a pool.
District officials say the first two questions on the ballot are essential to the district.
"If [question two] fails, we are going to have to restructure the district and make some real serious decisions," said Pulaski Community School District Superintendent Mel Lightner.
"Does that mean teachers' jobs could be on the table?" FOX 11's Bill Miston asked.
"I think when we look at our district budget, 80 percent of it is personnel – and it doesn't not only mean teachers, it means administrators, support staff; we have to look at everything," responded Lightner.
Lightner says looking at everything may mean fewer schools or different grade configurations.
For the time being, Lightner says the tentative approval of the question two means voters gave the district the support he says it needed.
"We're in dire need of some building upgrades, some roofs, some parking lots, some tuck pointing on building exteriors."
But opponents say that money should come from within the existing budget.
"To me, it's ridiculous that we should be having to pay for HVAC systems and roof repairs and parking lot repairs out of a referendum," said Jerry Miller.
Miller is behind the "It's OK to VOTE NO on the Pulaski School Referendum!" movement. Miller created the movement to defeat last November's more than $30 million school referendum. Voters rejected it by a nearly 2-1 difference. It was split into four questions with a smaller dollar price for this election.
Miller says he is pleased with the results.
"We would have liked to have gone four for four," said Miller of the referendum questions being voted down, "but by the same token, batting .750 isn't bad."
Miller, who lives in Hobart, says the organization isn't against children or the school district. But it is against what he calls the district's wants versus needs and isn't surprised how the votes shook out.
And it appears where people live in the district affected how they voted. On question two, seven of the 12 communities approved the referendum.
However, on question one, the immediate Pulaski area voted in favor of the technology upgrades. But most of the other municipalities voted no. It was virtually the same for how people voted on question three – school remodeling; and question four – the new pool and activity center.
And Miller is confident he will be four-for-four in the coming days.
"I'm sure there are at least 50-100 absentee ballots throughout the Pulaski School District that have to be counted," remarked Miller.
Lightner says the district should have a final number on the total votes for the second question next Tuesday, once the canvassing is complete. He says dependent on that outcome is when the district might start looking at other funding routes.
FOX 11 called the union that represents teachers and support staff in Pulaski; my calls were not returned.
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