Brookfield schools to discuss next steps

BROOKFIELD — A five-year, permanent improvement levy failed for the second time in the May 7 primary election and by a larger margin than it failed in November.

The 1.9-mill levy failed by a vote of 64 percent to 36 percent, according to incomplete and unofficial results from the Trumbull County Board of Elections. The levy failed by a 59 percent to 41 percent margin in the November general election.

“The needs are urgent in the areas we planned to use permanent improvement funds. Without that revenue, we will either use general fund money for what has to be done or band-aid what is a problem area and hope for the best. Brookfield has struggled to make ends meet over the years, so this is not a new scenario for us,” Superintendent Velina Jo Taylor said. “The community has indicated they don’t see an urgency and don’t understand the need adequately. They also don’t believe additional tax dollars to the school will result in a return on their investment. It is evident we need to communicate better with our residents so they fully understand what is involved.”

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

Treasurer Craig Yaniglos said the levy would have been 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.

Taylor said the levy would have generated $250,000 annually and would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home $66.50 per year.

Taylor said despite the levy failure, the school district will find ways to make the available money work.

“When times are tough, just like a cash-strapped family, we tend to do triage and try our hardest to find ways to make things work. Unfortunately, sometimes that means we have to trim corners in ways that affect our students,” she said. “We may not be able to get our district to one-to-one status with Chromebooks according to our plan, or we may not be able to add to the resources available to our staff and students to improve our curricular offerings, or we may need to postpone replacing a bus or two, but we will do what’s possible to ensure we are getting as much for our students as we can.”

Taylor also said Board of Education president Ronda Bonekovic will be polling the board members to determine the district’s next steps.

“I believe the Board of Education members have been good stewards of taxpayer money. Their leadership has helped lead us through fiscal emergency and resulted in our release 16 months ago. They are careful about expenditures and always ask hard questions when it comes time to commit to expenses. To be fully informed, I would encourage residents to attend Board of Education meetings, to ask questions of board members, and to call the board office if more is needed. We will do our best to clear up any misunderstanding or answer any inquiry,” Taylor said.

Bonekovic said the levy will be discussed at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday. No action will be taken at the meeting, but the board plans to discuss how the district should move forward. They also will interview final candidates for the superintendent’s position during an executive session. Taylor is leaving in July to become superintendent for Lakeview Local Schools.

“We are disappointed, but not really surprised. Sad thing is the only one this affects is the students. A lot of misinformation was out in the community and unfortunately, people tend to listen to it,” Bonekovic said. “I just wish the community could somehow be informed and realize this permanent improvement money is needed. If you don’t have this fund, then whenever technology needs updated, security for our students, a bus purchased or a falling down bus garage needs repaired or replaced, the money has to come out of our general fund.”

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