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School referendum wins sweeping victory

David Adlerstein
The Apalach Times
The Apalach Times

In an overwhelming show of support throughout the county, the four-year, half-mill property tax levy for the Franklin County Schools passed Tuesday by a nearly four-to-one margin.

Within minutes after the last mail-in ballot was due in by 7 p.m., Supervisor of Elections Heather Riley shared numbers that showed out of 1,961 ballots cast, 1,535 were in support, or better than 78 percent, with just 422 opposed, or just shy of 22 percent.

The 1,961 voters who cast ballots represented about 24 percent of the county’s 8,186 eligible voters.

“I am very pleased,” said School Board Chair Stacy Kirvin. “This shows people have been supporting what we have been doing in the school district. We can continue to pay the teachers what they deserve to be paid and we won’t have to have any layoffs.”

The victory margin was strongest in Precinct 3, which encompasses the Hill neighborhood of Apalachicola. There, nearly 85 percent of voters, or 286, were in favor, with just 51 opposed.

The weakest show of support, and it was far from a lackluster one, was in Alligator Point, where 90 voters, or about 73 percent, were in favor, with 33 opposed.

In every other precinct, the percentage of support was in the high 70 percentile, with 76 percent backing in Apalachicola , 77 percent in favor in Eastpoint, St. George Island and Lanark Village and 78 percent in Carrabelle.

The Hill neighborhood had the best turnout, with more than 35 percent of voters casting ballots, and the worst was in Eastpoint, where only about 19 percent of registered voters took part in the election.

Ballots were cast by 926 registered Democrats, 825 Republicans, 191 from those without party affiliation, and 29 from minor parties.

Riley estimated the cost of the mail-in election would run the school district just under $17,000.

First approved in 2008, and now thrice passed since then by countywide vote, the referendum will raise, until June 30, 2024, about $1 million annually for what the ballot language terms “essential operating expenses.”

The ballot specified the money would go to “preserve academic programs, retain highly qualified teachers (and) expand arts and music education, athletics and student activities,” noting the Apalachicola Bay Charter School would receive a proportionate share of the monies, based on the district’s full-time student enrollment.

The ballot language also noted the district would conduct annual reporting “to ensure proper fiscal stewardship of these funds to the citizens of Franklin County.”