CTE ballot item passes

Staff Writer

A new career and technical education facility for Saline County students is officially in the works after voters approved a ballot item for the facility Tuesday.
The project is a collaboration between local school and county officials, along with business owners.
When the center is constructed, students from six school districts — Benton, Bryant, Bauxite, Glen Rose, Harmony Grove and Sheridan — will have the opportunity to take classes in 10 different pathways. 
These pathways include automotive technology; manufacturing and product development; welding and metal work; heating and air; health science and nursing; information technology; computer engineering; biomedicine; STEM engineering and aviation.
To cover the construction costs of the center, a ballot item — Issue 6 — for a 3/8-cent temporary sales tax was proposed.
Tuesday, 22,183 votes, or 54.93 percent, were cast in favor of the issue and 18,199 people, or 45.07 percent, voted against the ballot item.
"We certainly are very happy about the results," said Saline County Judge Jeff Arey.
He thanked voters "for believing in and wanting a brighter future for our students and business and industry in Saline County."
Arey also commended the large amount of supporters, including members of the Benton Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Bryant Chamber of Commerce and the Hot Springs Village Chamber of Commerce.
He said business owners have "worked extremely hard" both by volunteering and donating.
Arey said the center is expected to be open for students as early at 2021 at Exit 114.
The county will be responsible for the costs to construct the building and the various districts will be responsible for the usual operations and maintenance costs. 
The College of the Ouachitas in Hot Spring County will be responsible for staffing the center.
Jack Truemper, senior vice president for Stephens Inc., said bonds will be offered in February 2019 with funds available for the project in March 2019. The tax levy will begin in April and collections would begin two months later in June.