In the September 8th edition of The Sun Times, the article “Stauffacher Campaigns for the HSSD 3.6 Millage Increase” stated that the local-option ballot question committee, Commission to Bring Heber Back, hadn’t filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission. That statement was in error. The registration paperwork for the committee was filed on August 28th. The Ethics Commission lists the state ballot question committee first followed by the local-option ballot question committees. This is an oversight by The Sun Times and we apologize.
    The article also stated that the law required a pre-election financial report be filed 10 days prior to the election, which would have been September 9th. The report was filed on September 12th, covering the reporting period between 7/21/17 thru 8/10/17. The reporting dates between 8/11/17 thru 9/9/17 are yet to be filed. Contributions of $50 or more with the contributor’s names and the amounts they contributed are listed. However, address information is incomplete on many of the contributors and expenditures are not listed as required by Arkansas Ethics Commission statute. The financial report can be viewed by voters by going to this link: http://www.arkansasethics.com/blqc/Local%20Committee/Cleburne%20County/commissiontobringheberback/BringHeber2017-09-12.pdf.
    Members of the committee are: Stan Lee, Chairman/Secretary Treasurer; Ali Sugg, Assistant Chair; Netta Thomas; and, Jim Adams. The identifying statement on the registration paperwork states that the committee was formed for “A mileage for staff salaries for the Heber Springs School Dist.”
    Ali Sugg is the owner/operator of The Lake 101.9FM radio station. On Tuesday, morning, Dr. Alan Stauffacher was the guest for her opinion talk show. Sugg didn’t announce a disclaimer that she was the Assistant Chair of the ballot question committee until the very end of her interview with Dr. Stauffacher. Additionally, in her opening monologue, Sugg said,  “I think, when you put these answers on Facebook and there’s another news source – and I’m putting quotes in the air that you can’t see – news source that is publishing some things that I don’t know if they’re true.”
    The Sun Times used resources that are readily available to the public online. In 2013, the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 228 which requires that each school district make required information readily available to the public by placing a link on their Homepage named “State Required Information”. The required information consists of the following: 1) current comprehensive financial data reports; and, 2) school district personnel policies information. The categories that should be listed under Current Comprehensive Financial Data Reports are: local and state revenue sources; administrator and teacher salary and benefit expenditure data; school district balances, including legal balances and building fund balances; minutes of regular and special school board meetings; the school district budget for the beginning school year, which must be posted on the website within thirty (30) days following the date required to be submitted to the Arkansas Department of Education (that date is September 30th, which is after the election on the 19th); a financial breakdown of monthly expenses of the school district; salary schedules for all school district employees, including extended contract and supplementary pay amounts; current contract information for all school district employees; the annual school district budget; and, the annual school district statistical report. This information is to be easily accessible by the public and must contain the actual data for two previous school years and the projected budget for the current school year.
    This information can also be found on the Arkansas Department of Education website and the public can create custom reports based on specific information of their choosing. That website address was given in this past Wednesday’s Times edition.
    Several people have called The Sun Times stating that they didn’t know that there was going to be a school board and millage election and asked why the paper hadn’t let the public know about it. The paper wasn’t notified by the HSSD board of directors until two weeks ago.
    The first “Vote No on Millage Increase No More Taxes” sign appeared in front of the County Courthouse on Monday mounted in the bed of a light and dark blue pickup truck. More of these signs have begun to pop up around Heber Springs, mainly along Highway 25N Business towards Walmart.
    “I want it on record that I’m against this millage increase,” stated State Representative Josh Miller. Miller made his views known concerning any new tax increases when the City Council passed a resolution for the Internet Sales tax. Miller voted against that bill in the 2017 Legislative Session. He stated that the average Cleburne County wage earner pays 44% of every dollar of earnings in local, state and federal taxes. “When is enough, enough?” Miller rhetorically asked.
    During the interview with Stauffacher, Sugg stated that she and Stauffacher had been discussing the millage election for several months prior to the public just finding out about the school election this past week.
    “I know that you and I have kind of been in contact over the questions the past month or maybe longer over the millage. I was one of the first people you came to talk to and you told me how we kind of rank up against the schools surrounding us with our teacher starting pay,” stated Sugg.
    The Heber Springs School Board of Directors is responsible for informing the public about the election. However, the only legal requirement about notifying the public of a school election is that twenty days prior to the election, the school board must publish a notice concerning the school election three times over a period of three weeks. The school board notice is published in the Classified Ads section under the heading of Legal Notices or Notices.
    The “2017 Annual September School Board Election Dates” calendar can be downloaded from the Secretary of State’s website on the Elections page. This direct link will take a person directly to the document:http://www.sos.arkansas.gov/elections/Documents/2017%20School%20Election%20Calendar%20-%20Revised%205-1-17.pdf). The “2018 Annual September School Board Election Dates” document has been recently published for download as well.
    Next year the school board directors must decide whether their elections will occur at the same time a Preferential Primary election is occurring, which is in May, or when the General Election occurs in November. These are months that voters are normally accustomed to voting. There will no longer be special elections held in September after 2017.
    The school board of directors are not required to notify the public of the filing period when citizens can file by petition to be a candidate for a position on the school board. The filing period for 2017 was July 5th until noon July 11th. This may explain why there is no opponent running against Kevin Thomas, a current member of the school board, and why there is no candidate for the other vacant position on the board. A person for that position will be appointed after the school election.
    Sixty days before the annual school election, the County Clerk must make available applications for absentee ballots for the annual school election. The deadline was July 21st. Forty-seven days prior to the annual school election, the County Board of Election Commissioners must deliver absentee ballots to the County Clerk for mailing to all those who made application for an absentee ballot. On the forty-sixth day, August 4th, the county clerk is to mail absentee ballots out to absentee voters who made application for a ballot within the specified time.
    The deadline for the County Clerk to receive absentee ballots by mail or electronic means was September 12th. This is also the day that the county election commissioners can count absentee ballots. The deadline to apply to register to vote for the annual school election is thirty days prior to September 19th, which was August 20th.
    The public wasn’t informed of any of these requirements or deadlines, but the Heber Springs School District Board of Directors isn’t required by law to notify the public of these events. The Sun Times has printed the 2018 annual school election calendar. Once the Board of Directors has decided as to whether May or November will be the month in which school elections are to be held, the paper will notify the public as to the dates of election events next year. This will ensure that all persons who wish to file to run as a candidate for the board or wish to vote at the polls or by absentee ballot may do so.