A referendum to lower a Little Rock property-tax levy tied to capital improvements for the Central Arkansas Library System and refinance library bonds was heavily favored to win approval during a special election Tuesday, unofficial returns showed.
The library system's capital-improvement millage rate in Little Rock is set to decline from 1.8 to 1.3 mills as a result of the vote, fulfilling a goal of library officials related to an earlier referendum.
The reduction mirrors a 0.5-mill increase Little Rock voters approved last November to the library system's millage rate that funds operations and maintenance.
Like the operational increase, the reduction on track for approval Tuesday will only apply to Little Rock residents, not those who live outside the city but still within the regional library system's service area.
As of around 10 p.m., unofficial and incomplete returns from the Pulaski County Election Commission were:
Each mill represents the dollar amount in tax paid on every $1,000 of the tax-assessed value of a piece of property. Extended at the lower rate, the capital-improvement millage will be pledged to bonds with a maximum aggregate principal amount of $42 million.
Library officials expect the refinancing will generate more than $22 million. They hope to deploy the money on interior renovations to the Main Library, a new bookmobile and upgrades to technology infrastructure, among other things.
Central Arkansas Library System Executive Director Nate Coulter has said that refinancing the outstanding bonds would extend payments by approximately two years, meaning the reissued bonds would be paid off in roughly eight years instead of six.
In an email Monday, Coulter wrote that if voters approve the extension at the lower rate, "we will aim to have the necessary documentation ready to present to the city and seek approval for the underwriters to issue the new bonds sometime in the third quarter of this year."
If everything goes smoothly, the $22 million might be in hand with the bond trustee by late fall for planned capital improvements to begin, though time frames on upgrades will vary, Coulter wrote.
"With the Main branch remodeling we have contemplated, it might be the middle of 2023 before everything is in place and that work could begin," he wrote.
The special election in Little Rock coincided with the primary and nonpartisan judicial general election.
During last year's referendum on the operational millage rate, library officials sought an increase from 3.3 to 3.8 mills to address a long-term budget problem. The increase passed with 71% of the vote, marking the first successful referendum to raise the operational millage rate in Little Rock since 2007.