INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Jeff Pegler narrowly defeated Kimberly Keithahn Tuesday night to claim the open District 5 school board seat.
Pegler and Keithahn squared off in the general election after neither was able to collect over 50 percent of the primary vote. Pegler finished with 20,007 votes (50.75 percent) Tuesday night to 18,862 for Keithahn (47.84 percent).
Althea McKenzie collected 557 votes (1.41 percent) as a write-in candidate. “I think (my success) was due to all the hard work we put in and that the people thought I could bring a balance that is needed to the school board,” Pegler said.
Despite falling just 1,145 votes short, Keithahn said she would not consider asking for a recount .
“No, the people have spoken,” she said. “I wish Jeff all the best.”
Pegler joins Carol Johnson, Karen Disney-Brombach, Claudia Jimenez and Matthew McCain on a school board that is very much at a crossroads this year. The board must complete a search for a new school superintendent to replace the outgoing Harry La Cava and work on dealing with a budget shortfall that will be measured in the millions.
“The main thing for the school board is that they are going to lose all the stimulus money that has been keeping them alive, they are going to have to find a new superintendent of schools, they have to decide what they are going to do about charter schools, and they are going to have to change a lot of funding priorities,” said Charlie Wilson, who ran an unsuccessful bid for the school board in 2008.Also on Tuesday night, Indian River County voters opted to pay more in property taxes to help support children in the school district’s classrooms.
Property taxes will go up by 25 cents on every $1,000 of tax assessed property value and raise, according to the Indian River County School District ,$3.59 million in revenue.
School officials have said they would use $1.8 million on teaching positions, $1.3 million on science textbooks, $341,000 in state mandated charges and provide the rest to charter schools.
The millage question on the ballot passed 25,911 votes (60.25 percent) to 17,084 (39.75 percent).
“I think that just shows that people in Indian River County are passionate about education,” said Pegler, who campaigned against raising the tax.