OKOLONA – The election commission created for a special Okolona School Bond issue quickly counted 465 absentee ballots Wednesday and declared a $2 million school bond issue had passed.
Final but unofficial totals had 1,036 votes for the bond referendum and 627 against it, or 62.3 percent in favor. A 60 percent margin was required for passage.
Voting on Tuesday saw 812 ballots cast for the issue and 415 votes against.
“This was about basic needs,” said Mary Gates, a former school teacher and current Okolona alderman. “We had kids who were hot when it was hot and cold when it was cold. We also had leaking roofs.”
She also pointed out this was the first time she can remember a school bond vote being held in Okolona.
The vote, and the large number of absentee and affidavit ballots, have prompted concerns.
“This is only the second election I have been involved in and this is the first time I have ever seen such a high number of absentee ballots,” said Election Commissioner Keisha Bogan. “We did what we were supposed to do.”
Bogan said the election was not without some confusion as there were 18 affidavit ballots cast at the high school and 34 affidavit ballots cast at the elementary school. Assistant Chickasaw County Circuit Clerk Patti Stallings said she was double-checking those ballots and should have those results by the end of the week.
Bogan said she was confident the numbers would stand and said the referendum did pass the 60 percent threshold to declare the community supported the bond vote.
Stallings said she did not know the exact number of voters in the Okolona School District. The 2010 Census listed Okolona’s population at 2,692, but the school district also includes areas outside the city.
The bulk of the bond will be spent on the old three-story Okolona High School that houses administration offices and on heating and air-conditioning repairs at Okolona Elementary School on that same campus.
Okolona School District was cited four years ago for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act with the old Okolona High School specifically named as not being handicapped accessible. The district was told to meet federal regulations or face fines for the infractions.
Money in the bond issue also will go to enhance the new football field and help the Chieftains move from the current football stadium on Highway 32 next to the National Guard Armory to a new field closer to the high school.
The tax increase is expected to raise property taxes on a $100,000 home about $98 a year.