Everything in Morgan County was close this year after 4,090 ballots were cast in the vote-by-mail election. As of Election Night, Nov. 7, the $49 million school bond passed by 157 votes, while City Mayor and incumbent Ray W. Little edged out long-time city recorder Julie Bloxham by just 51 votes.
Over 61 percent of registered voters participated in the vote. Under 200 votes were cast at the physical polls on Election Day, while over 3,000 voters cast their ballots by mail.
Last year during the first nationwide general election conducted by mail in Morgan County, turn-out was 79 percent. In the county’s first-ever election conducted entirely by mail in 2015, voter turn-out was 47.37.
The bond passed with 52.18 percent of voters approving plans for construction of a new $29 million middle school in Mountain Green as well as a $20 million three-story classroom addition at Morgan High School. School district officials plan to put the projects out to bid in December for construction to start in the spring of 2018.
“We expected the vote to be close,” Morgan Superintendent Doug Jacobs said. “While we were optimistic about the outcome, we had concerns about taxpayer support. We were pleasantly surprised. I am pleased the bond passed.”
The $49 million bond will be spread over 21 years, which would cost the owner of a $300,000 home almost $525 more per year. However, the district promised to adjust levies and pay down current debt, saying the owner of a $300,000 home should only see a $158 annual increase in the district’s portion of property taxes beginning in 2018.
“The Morgan Board of Education started this important process over three years ago with the formation of the Growth Task Force and the significant contributions of former Board Member Mark Farmer. Morgan is growing and the growth is projected to continue. We need appropriate classroom space for our current and future students. We were obligated to create a smart building plan to accommodate growth and to help taxpayers understand that current building costs will only increase and be a greater burden if projects are delayed,” Jacobs said.
“The board directed me to inform and educate the public in the most transparent way possible. The board has worked diligently to include the ideas and opinions of district employees, parents and community members. They also wanted the campaign to be run in a positive, professional and cost effective manner,” Jacobs said. “While the payment of this bond will require sacrifice, the resulting investment in local education will be a great benefit for many years to come.”
A look at voting by area shows nearly the same narrow margins county-wide. Peterson seems to be the area with the most support for the bond, while Croydon seemed to have the most opposition to the bond.
In the city election, the 643 vs. 592 tally in the mayoral race shows a close vote, but Bloxham doesn’t plan to ask for a recount. “I would like to thank everyone who supported me and wish Ray well in his next four years,” she said.
Little, 65, was originally appointed in April of 2014, when Mayor Jim Egbert resigned. Little won re-election in 2015. Before filling the mayoral seat, Little served on the city council since 1994.
Morgan City Councilmen Jeffery Richins and Eric Turner sailed to uncontested wins with 972 and 868 votes, respectively. Richins, 46, was originally appointed in January, just over six months ago, when Councilman Bill Cobabe resigned. Richins was the only applicant for the vacancy. Turner, also 46, was appointed in July of 2016, when Councilman Fran Hopkin resigned over a year ago to accept a job out of town.