NEW BETHLEHEM – While voters around the area went to the polls yesterday (Tuesday) to vote in a presidential primary election that appears to be already wrapped up, voters in the Redbank Valley School District had a much more local issue on their ballots.
And although supporters of the referendum asking voters to allow the school district to raise property taxes significantly above the state-allowed index made a strong push in recent days, the effort appears to have failed.
With an undetermined, yet significant, number of mail-in ballots waiting to be counted in Clarion and Armstrong counties, initial election results from voters who cast their vote at the polls on Tuesday shows that the tax referendum question was voted down 836 to 1,248 across the district.
Clarion County voters cast 714 ballots against the referendum, and 453 in favor. Armstrong County voters cast 534 votes against the referendum, and 383 in favor.
School board members went to the public with the tax question, asking that voters approve a 7.7302 mill tax increase for Armstrong County and a 12.9715 mill increase for Clarion County above the 3.8 percent index.
Officials argued that the increased taxes were needed to balance the district’s budget and to maintain current school programs. School board members cautioned that if the referendum was not approved, the district would address the budget deficit through the furlough of the district librarian, an art and music teacher, the dean of students position and two elementary teachers by moving sixth grade to the high school, as well as a secretary, nurse aide and library aide position. In addition, the athletic trainer position and most district spending on security would be cut, and the extracurricular participation fees and fundraising requirements would be increased.
Now, with the measure failing to be approved by voters, the school board will meet later this month to finalize its budget without the additional tax revenues.
In the Presidential primary election, Clarion County Democrats backed Joe Biden, giving him 678 votes. Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard, who have withdrawn from the race, received 231 votes and 124 votes respectively.
Donald Trump received 4,699 Republican votes in Clarion County, well above challengers Rocky De La Fuente with 31 votes and Bill Weld with 86 votes. Twenty-nine Republicans cast a write-in vote for president.
As of press time, there were still several Armstrong County precincts not yet counted, and thus, no final Presidential results were available for the county.
All votes are unofficial until certified by the county’s elections board. Additional details from last night’s election will appear in next week’s issue of The Leader-Vindicator.