In September of 2014, the citizens of Jacksonville voted almost unanimously (95%) in favor of carving out a new school district—named the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District—from the Pulaski County Special School District. Now, on February 9th, those citizens have the opportunity to approve a property tax increase of 7.6 mills to fund much-needed school facility improvements. The Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce supports this increase as the success of the new district is vital to the future of the Little Rock Air Force Base (“LRAFB”), a major economic driver for our region.
Military bases around the country are continually subject to an evaluation process known as “BRAC,” short for Base Reassignment and Closure. Like all communities with a military base, we fight rigorously to prevent the loss of not only the base, but also of its individual components. To lose even a single plane from the base would mean losing jobs. More and more, the condition of the surrounding school district has been a factor in those closure decisions. In fact, in 2013, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno (Ret.) stated that “If they want to keep the military in their communities, they better start paying attention to the schools that are outside and inside our installations. Because as we evaluate, as we make decisions on future force structure, that will be one of the criteria.”
Each time the LRAFB comes under review, the condition of the school facilities serves as a strike against it, putting us at risk of losing components of the base, if not the base as a whole. This vote serves as an opportunity to repair and replace the deficient buildings, giving the new district the best chance at success. The LRAFB has demonstrated their commitment by funding the construction of a new elementary school.
The Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce is the principal business-driven leadership organization responsible for fostering the economic growth and development of the Little Rock Region to ensure that business and industry may operate profitably and enhance the earning opportunities and quality of life for every citizen.