The vote center list the Garland County Election Commission approved Wednesday for three Feb. 8 elections included 14 locations, none of which are in Hot Springs Village.
The Village Property Owners Association Board of Directors voted in October to prohibit vote centers inside the gated community. Vote centers allow voters to choose where they vote on election day, meaning voters who live outside the Village can cast ballots at vote centers inside the Village gates.
The county shifted from assigned election day polling locations prior to the March 2016 preferential primaries and nonpartisan general election. Unitarian Universalist Church in the Village hosted a vote center during the November 2020 general election and nonpartisan runoff.
Voters will decide in February if the 0.625% countywide sales tax supporting road improvements will be extended through June 30, 2027. They first extended the sales tax in a June 2016 special election, voting 4,601-2,637 to pledge the sales tax proceeds to the repayment of a $54.6 million bond issue financing road improvements.
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The county said the sales tax proceeds are projected to retire the debt by the end of next year's first quarter, more than a year earlier than what was projected when Stephens Inc. marketed the debt in October 2016.
Proceeds from the extension would not secure more debt but would instead accrue to the county road fund, similar to how proceeds from the 0.375% countywide sales tax voters approved in 2011 to operate and maintain the county detention center flow to the county jail fund.
If voters reject the extension of the 0.625% sales tax, County Judge Darryl Mahoney could sign a termination of tax certificate by March 31, taking the tax off the books by July 1. Voters initially authorized the sales tax in an October 2011 special election to secure $41 million in capital improvement bonds that financed the construction of the detention center at 3564 Albert Pike Road.
Millage increases requested by the Fountain Lake and Mountain Pine school district will also be on the ballot in February. Fountain Lake is asking for a 5-mill increase, and Mountain Pine is asking for 5.2 additional mills.
Election Commission Chairman/Election Coordinator Gene Haley said there will be four ballot styles. The 5 mills will be on the ballot for Saline County voters residing in the Fountain Lake School District. The millage increase and sales tax extension will be on the ballot for Garland County voters in the school district.
Voters in the Mountain Pine School District will have the 5.2-mill increase and sales tax extension on their ballots. The sales tax extension will be the only item on ballots for Garland County voters who don't reside in the two school districts.
Fewer than 12% of the county's more than 60,000 registered voters turned out for the June 2016 special election that extended the sales tax to secure the debt for road improvements. Haley said he expects the millage elections to generate higher turnout in February, even with Saline County voters not weighing in on Garland County's sales tax extension.
They accounted for most of the turnout in the May 2019 annual school election that included a 4-mill increase for the Fountain Lake School District. Voters rejected the increase 1,271-659, with Saline County voters opposing it by an 830-268 margin. Those who cast ballots at the Bank OZK branch near the Village's east gate voted against the increase by a 708-161 margin.
The election commission said the turnout overwhelmed the bank, which will not be used in February. USA Self Storage at 25255 Highway 5 will replace it as the Saline County polling location. Haley said the owners offered to provide the space at no cost to Garland County. The election commission said most of the 7,500 Saline County voters in the Fountain Lake School District reside in the Village's eastern precincts.
Fewer than 12% of the more than 2,000 registered voters in the Mountain Pine School District weighed in on the 4.8 mills the district's school board asked voters to approve in May. They defeated it 157-108.
Early voting for all three elections will be held at the Election Commission Building on Ouachita Avenue and Community Baptist Church at 3518 Highway 7 north. Early voting hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesday, Feb. 1, to Friday, Feb. 4. Early voting will resume Monday, Feb. 7.
Haley said the special election for the sales tax extension will cost Garland County about $25,000, the cost of which was included in the $500,000 budget the Garland County Quorum Court approved for the election commission's 2022 operations.
The election commission approved the 2020 redistricting map DataScout LLC presented last month. The new map adjusted justice of the peace boundaries to account for the urban to rural shift in the county's population since the 2010 census.
Haley said the county clerk has 15 days to publish the map in The Sentinel-Record. A 30-day public comment period will begin once the map is published. It can be viewed on the election commission website, http://www.garlandcountyvote.org.
The Hot Springs Board of Directors approved the city's redistricting map last month. The new city director boundaries are reflected on the city's GIS map, which can be viewed on the city website, http://www.cityhs.net.