Voters to decide Brookfield schools improvement levy

Primary issue

BROOKFIELD — The Brookfield school district again is trying for passage of a 1.9-mill, five-year permanent improvement levy on the May primary ballot after the issue was defeated by 59 percent of voters in November.

After being removed in 2018 from state fiscal emergency after nearly five years, the board of education is asking voters for financial help to make needed permanent improvements in the district which include security, transportation, technology and maintenance.

Treasurer Craig Yaniglos said the levy will be used for various needs of the district including new school buses; needed improvements at the bus garage, which has sections built in the 1930s; and maintenance work at the track and football complex.

He said the money generated from the levy can be used for permanent improvements of the district such as infrastructure and technology as well as safety. Yaniglos said safety funds can be used for security cameras and safety glass coatings for windows and doors.

He stressed no levy money would be used toward the middle school hallway sprinkler system, damaged when lines burst during the cold weather.

“The key is watching our funds and spending. We do not want to go back into fiscal emergency,” Yaniglos said, noting the district spends $800,000 per month on salaries, benefits, programs and services.

Superintendent Velina Jo Taylor said the levy would generate $250,000 annually for permanent improvements and needs of the district that last more than five years

She said anything that lasts for more than five years would include school buses and textbooks, furnishing and equipping schools, and repairing and making improvements to buildings and facilities.

The owner of a $100,000 home would pay approximately $66.50 per year, Yaniglos said.

Taylor, who will be leaving the district at the end of July to become the new superintendent for Lakeview schools, said there are capital improvement needs in the district, such as upgrades to security, new furniture, updated technology and repair and improvements to buildings. The list of district needs includes new security cameras at the school, new buses to replace old ones — a new one each year for the five years, and maintenance issues for the 1930s-era bus garage and the 1940s-era football stadium.

Officials are exploring a number of options for the bus garage, ranging from small renovations at the existing site on Grove Street to building a new one at that location or at the school campus.

The priorities at the football stadium are replacing the rotting light poles, building a new press box, which is sinking into the locker room, and building handicapped-accessible restrooms.

Board member George Economides has said at board meetings there needs more of an effort made to get the word out on the need for the levy. Plans will include forming a levy committee and holding informational meetings, he said.

Faced with a deficit of more than $1 million in 2013, the district cut spending by roughly $1.5 million through reductions in staffing and purchased services. Steps taken to refinance bonded debt are expected to save the district and its taxpayers another $2 million in its bond retirement fund.

State auditors also had recommended the district look at ways to share services with neighboring Mathews and Liberty school districts to save money. Under consideration for cost savings are sharing transportation, food services, mechanical services and special education transportation.

Taylor said nothing has been finalized as transportation was being looked at first and then food services.