School system withdraws tax vote request

Published 5:32 pm Thursday, September 16, 2010

SELMA — The Selma City School Board has withdrawn its request for a vote on a 3 mill tax from the Dallas County Commission.

Interim superintendent Don Jefferson and school board President Henry Hicks met with the commission Thursday afternoon to talk about the vote.

Jefferson told commission members, “We are not wanting to put the commission and people of Dallas County at risk financially.”

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Jefferson said when he and Hicks met privately Aug. 24 with Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard, they were unaware of the cost of reprinting the ballots, the need for U.S. Justice Department approval and other time constraints about holding an election Nov. 2.

“We had no inkling about the ballot and the pre-clearance,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson withdrew the request for a vote made Monday at a commission meeting, instead asking commissioners to have their attorney John Kelly notify the school board in ample time before the next regular election to have the 3-mill tax measure on the ballot.

Initially, the school board discussed attempting to get on the Nov. 2 ballot. But Kelly told school board members Wednesday night because of federal law allowing overseas residents to vote absentee, beginning Friday, there was no time to prepare absentee ballots.

Kelly suggested Dec. 7 as the next available date for voting in a special election for the measure. At the time, school board members generally agreed. A special election would cost the county $40,000 because state law mandates the county pay for the election.

After Thursday’s meeting with the commission, Jefferson said he and Hicks discussed the Dec. 7 vote at length and decided against it because of the cost to the county, and ultimately, the taxpayers.

“We need to move forward down the road and have the people decide,” the interim superintendent said.

Hicks said school board members were not polled, but informed of the decision after he and Jefferson talked.

The decision pleased county commissioners, who were concerned about the unbudgeted cost of a special election.

“We appreciate the class you all have shown throughout this,” said Commissioner Roy Moore of District 2.

School board member Holland Powell also attended the meeting said Hicks and Jefferson made a good decision.

“I was crystal clear in that meeting last night on where I stood. If the board will take this opportunity the rest of the school year to show it can be fiscally responsible, stand up and do the right thing by cutting administrative costs and consolidating schools, then voters will come around,” Powell said.