The measure in the “Tax Ratification Election,” which school officials said would bring $205,000 more annually to the district in state aid, won 278-146, said School Supt. Rick Albritton. Early voting totals were 206-28 in favor, while the election day total was 118-72 against, he said.
GISD officials had said the school’s overall tax rate for the coming 2013-2014 fiscal year would remain $1.185 cents per $100 valuation whether the measure passed or not. As a result of the vote, the school will increase the portion of the tax rate for Maintenance and Operation (M&O) by 13 cents, while lowering the portion for Interest and Sinking (I&S, or debt service) by that same amount.
The M&O portion will thus rise from the current $1.04 to $1.17, while the I&S portion would drop from 14.5 cents to 1.5. The school said it could receive the extra state aid only by raising the portion of the overall rate used for M&O.
Under what Albritton termed a quirk in state law, the proposal on the ballot said voters were deciding whether to approve an ad valorem tax rate of $1.315 cents per $100 valuation. However, the board had already set the rate for this coming year at $1.185 cents, and Albritton had said approving the proposal would not set the tax rate at $1.315 cents for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
On Saturday night, he expressed gratitude to voters for trusting the school and the board, and again assured that the current rate will remain $1.185.
This was the first of two special elections recently called by the district’s board of trustees. Voters will decide on a 3-part bond issue proposal totaling $36.2 million Nov. 5, and school officials say approving all three portions would increase the tax rate by 26 cents.
In an e-mail to The Mirror, civic activist James Still, a GISD employee, said he and Huey Mitchell distributed flyers around town Saturday alerting people of the election after “I began asking friends this week ‘Are you aware of the Tax Ratification Election?’” and “Most were either unaware or very confused.”
Still said the 300 flyers contained an article on the election from Wednesday’s Mirror reprinted on one side, and “a few” additional “facts” on the other side. He said his and Mitchell’s goal was not to tell people “how to vote but to give citizens the information.”
Still said one election worker at Gilmer High School todl him that one man who came in said he would not have known about the election had it not been for two men walking around the downtown square, handing out information on it.
“Our experience pointedly illustrates how vital it is for all of us to be more interested, more involved and a voice to our neighbors and friends about issues and events within our community. Huey and I both felt, ‘It was a good day,’” Still wrote.