As Brookfield Board of Education approaches its drop-dead date to put a levy on the November ballot, it’s clear that no request will be a slam dunk.
“There is a sensitivity out there,” school board member George Economides said of the prospect of putting on a levy request. “People have approached me and said, ‘Well, good luck.’”
It’s also clear that the promotion of a levy will be confusing, because school taxes actually went down this year by 0.6 mills because of the refinancing of a bond issue; a reappraisal of property values bumped up many property owners’ overall tax bills; and the school tax rate will go down again in January by 0.4 mills.
The board has until early August to decide the levy request particulars. The board has talked solely about a permanent improvement levy, which could not be used for operations and salaries, but could go to the purchase of textbooks, computers and buses, and construction and maintenance projects — anything that has an expected lifespan of more than five years. The board could put a PI levy on for five years, or make it a continuous levy that would not end unless the board acted to end it.
Treasurer Craig Yaniglos recommended the board try for a 2.5-mill levy, which would bring in $330,000 a year.
Economides said that figure sounded high. He said he liked the sound of a 1-mill levy, because people already were used to paying that 1 mill prior to the bond refinancing.
“The concept of us trying to put a PI on because we saved the money off of the bond issue, there would be a nice swing if you tell the people, ‘It’s not going to cost you (1 mill),’” Economides said. “It’s basically the same taxes that you’ve had in the past, but the money will be coming to the school instead of going to the bond fund. Basically, it’s for lack of a better word, a wash.”
But, if you put a 2.5-mill levy on and tell people only 1.5 of it would be new money, “people are going to see a two-and-a- half-mill levy, period,” Economides said.
“Anything is better than nothing,” Yaniglos said. “It’s really the board’s decision, at this point. I think the other question needs to be asked, ‘How long do you want it to be until you go back after new money?’” which was a reference to a general operating levy.
“The more we can decrease that general fund liability, through PI funds for repairs and stuff, the longer it’s going to be until that day comes,” Yaniglos said. “For me, I don’t think it was the board’s feeling or sentiment that we want to be going to the ballot anytime soon, other than for PI. If that’s the case, then you go for the larger amount.”
Yaniglos had some numbers available for how much various levy amounts would affect property owners, but board member Tim Filipovich asked for a more detailed spread sheet.
Filipovich added that he has heard some of the resistance to a levy that Economides talked about.
“It’s going to be a tough sell, one way or the other,” Economides said.