Early voting dooms Bellaire levy

BELLAIRE – The Bellaire school levy met the same fate Tuesday as the previous five attempts the district has made in trying to get a funding mechanism, either levy or income tax, passed.

The current effort centered on an 8.25 mill levy that went down 1,035 to 836 during Tuesday’s special primary election.

A similar levy effort suffered defeat during the November presidential election, 2,463 to 1,843.

Superintendent Tony Scott was naturally disappointed at the outcome and was left wondering what happened to all those yes votes.

“We knew it would be a low voter turnout,” Scott said. “It was the only thing on the ballot. But we only garnered 836 yes votes and we had 1,800 in November, so it was disappointing.

“We’ll have to sit down with the board and figure out what our next step will be.”

This election centered on the levy for Bellaire residents as no other race appeared on the ballot.

Mayor Vince DiFabrizio had no challengers during the primary and only enough candidates required to fill the council seats declared for the primary, so there were no seat races on the ballot.

That will change come November’s general election with independents filing and contested races joining any potential school levy.

The votes are out there for passage. Apparently, the trick is getting more than half of those people, those whom didn’t come out Tuesday, to the polls.

There were a few encouraging numbers from Tuesday’s defeat for Scott.

Both the margin of defeat and vote percentages were closer between the yes and no votes than in the previous election.

“Last time we went down by 600 votes, so we’re cutting into it,” Scott said. “We have to find a way to get the yes voters out.

“We know they are out there. It’s something the board will have to deliberate and discuss.

“As of right now, I really can’t comment other than the fact we’re disappointed.”

As the votes were being tallied, the district actually had a 16-vote lead in the yes column. But once the early voting was tabulated, the end result proved the same as the previous attempts.

With the numerous cuts made the last few years, Bellaire seems to have its financial house in order for the most part.

But it’s had to do so at the expense of programming, teaching and staff positions, and upgrades.

Scott and the levy committee tried to convey passage of the levy would help the district bring back content-specific teachers for subjects like art, music and physical education.

It also would have assisted the district in upgrading its technology program, along with its transportation department.

But now, it’s back to the drawing board for the district.

“We’ll continue to do the best we can with what we have and try to demonstrate to the community that we’re running a fiscally responsible operation, but in order for the district to move forward, there will have to be a levy passed.

“The sun will come up, the buses will run and the teachers will come in and work their butts off and try to keep showing that we’re worthy of this increase.

“The kids are worth it.”

Hughes may be reached at mhughes@timesleaderonline.com