Update: the school board took a preparatory step toward placing the levy on the May 7 ballot at its Dec. 10 meeting by asking the Trumbull County Auditor to certify the current tax valuation in the school district and the amount of revenue the levy would generate.
The permanent improvement levy request put on the Nov. 6 ballot by Brookfield Board of Education failed by more than 480 votes, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of school officials.
In official results released by the Trumbull County Board of Elections, 2,038 people, (57 percent of voters) voted no, and 1,556 voted yes. None of Brookfield’s seven precincts voted affirmatively.
School board members George Economides and Tim Filipovich said they were surprised the levy didn’t pass, and Economides said he thought the deficit was not insurmountable.
While levy committee Chairman Monica Fortuna called the vote an “epic fail,” school board member Ronda Benekovic countered: “It’s not an epic fail. A little bump in the road. We’ll get it.”
“The need is still there,” Filipovich said Nov. 20 in supporting Superintendent Velina Jo Taylor’s recommendation to try again in the spring. “This is pretty close to an emergency situation for us, as far as our capital improvements.”
The board proposed a 1.9-mill levy that would have been good for five years and could only be used for goods and projects that have a useful life of more than five years. The administration’s plan for the money included updating technology, upgrading security measures, buying school buses and repairing the bus garage and the football stadium.
“The one thing that came across when we debriefed about it was, despite our efforts to get information out, we fell somewhat short in that,” Taylor said. “We need to work a little bit harder or a little bit differently to get the word out, especially to senior citizens in the community. It seems like they were largely uninformed about the things that we’re trying to accomplish here and what we’ve been doing up to this point.”
The board started talking about things they need to do better the next time.
“I think your committee chairman needs some assistance and some help,” Economides said, upon learning that the levy committee consisted of Fortuna, her husband, Jim Ashton, and her 13-year-old son, Matteo Fortuna.
Fortuna worked “tirelessly” promoting the levy, Taylor said. “Even in the face of not getting a whole lot of support or a whole lot of help, she just kept on keeping on. I was very appreciative of that.”
Fortuna thanked fourth-grade teacher Megan Rodgers and Shannon Devitz, who was a member of the township zoning committee, with helping her on key points of the campaign.
The language of the levy was confusing in that it was a “permanent improvement” levy but not a “permanent” one, as it only would have lasted for five years, Economides said. The board will need to better define the “message” during its next promotional campaign, he said.
Board President Kelly Carrier called for better coordination between committee and school officials.
“I think next go around we should think ahead about, ‘How are we going to roll this out? How are we going to get enough support behind it, so we have enough critical mass?’” she said.
There was discussion about whether the levy request should have been on the ballot at the same time the township was trying to get zoning passed, and Benekovic said she thought they should not have been on at the same time. Filipovich didn’t agree.
“Our decision whether we put something on the ballot is based on the need that we have right now in regards to our financial picture,” he said.
Convincing people to raise their own taxes is always a tough sell, Economides said.
“I don’t think it’s time to be discouraged,” he said.
Brookfield Township final vote tallies for the proposed school levy:
Precinct A, which includes Yankee Lake: 407 no votes and 244 yesvotes.
Precinct B: 306 no votes and 193 yes votes.
Precinct D: 220 no votes and 195 yes votes.
Precinct E: 271 no votes and 216 yes votes.
Precinct H: 354 no votes and 172 yes votes.
Precinct K: 404 no votes and 324 yes votes.
Precinct L: 175 no votes and 148 yes votes.