Residents made their voices heard during special elections that took place in LeFlore and Sequoyah counties Tuesday.
In LeFlore County, voters went to the polls for the Pocola and Poteau special school bond election, as well as the town of Howe special municipal election. In Sequoyah County, voters cast their ballots in the Brushy special school bond election.
In the Pocola special school bond election, residents narrowly voted against Pocola Public Schools issuing $6.03 million in bonds to provide funds to build, equip, repair and remodel school buildings, acquire school furniture, fixtures and equipment and acquire and improve school sites
An annual tax would have also been levied and collected to pay off the bonds. Pocola Public Schools Superintendent Lawrence Barnes said the annual tax would have resulted in a 15 percent tax increase.
According to unofficial results taken from the Oklahoma State Election Board website, 407 voters, or 59.77 percent, voted in favor of the proposition while 274 voters, 40.23 percent, voted against it. Barnes said 60 percent of the votes were required to pass the proposition.
The funds from the issuing of the bonds would have been used to construct an event center on the Pocola middle and high school campus, Barnes said. A multipurpose building would have also been constructed at the elementary school.
Barnes said the Pocola School District may request a recount since the vote was so close. The request has to be made by 5 p.m. today.
The proposition voted on in the Poteau special school bond election was similar to the one in Pocola, except the sum of the bonds Poteau Public Schools would be issuing was $22.93 million, a sample ballot states. Poteau Public Schools Superintendent Don Sjoberg said the proposal would have raised school taxes 13.8 percent.
However, the proposition was also rejected by voters, with 703 voting for it and 802 voting against it, the unofficial results state. Sjoberg said the funds that would have been derived as a result of the proposition would have been used to complete four major projects, including a new seventh-eighth grade academic center, new classrooms for Poteau High School, the renovation of the Bob Lee Kidd Center into a performing arts center and a new event center.
A news release provided by Sjoberg states while there is disappointment in the outcome of the election, there are important points to learn from the results.
"There were 703 voters who were willing to make a major sacrifice to see long-term improvements in our facilities for students and community," the release states. "Although it was not enough to pass, it does show that there was an understanding that personal sacrifice was more important than personal financial gain. The community of Poteau is dependent on the school economically, as well as educationally, and the results of the vote show that there are many people who still believe that we shouldn't 'expect something for nothing.'"
The school district owes a debt of gratitude to the many people who helped to develop the facilities improvement plan, the release states. The voting results will be reviewed and steps will be taken to develop a plan a supermajority of voters will support.
Voters in the Howe special election elected Holley Ann Gerdes to serve an unexpired two-year term on the Howe Board of Trustees. The unofficial results show Gerdes winning 24 votes while Keith Gammel collected 14.
The Brushy school bond election sought to raise $380,000, a sample ballot states. Brushy Public Schools Superintendent Greg Reynolds said the millage rate would stay the same rate it has been for the past 10 years.
According to the unofficial results, voters passed the proposition with 70 people in favor of it while two voted against it. Reynolds said thes proposition will fund the construction of a new early childhood center. It will feature two classrooms for preschool and another two for kindergarten.
"In the last 10 years, we've had 70 percent growth in our enrollment," Reynolds said. "We just need the extra space. ..."
The millage rate will be an average of 9.54 over another 10 years.