Petition for a special November election exceeds 1,000 signatures
By Chris Fish
VIERA -- More than 1,000 parents and concerned residents have signed a petition in support of holding a special election to avoid the closing of four Brevard County schools.
The petition, created by local activist group Save Brevard Public Schools, is a response to the failed half-cent sales tax referendum in the November election that would have raised $32 million annually for Brevard Public Schools' budget.
Currently, the school board faces a $30 million shortfall in the budget for 2013-14. In order to raise the necessary funding needed for the deficit, the board has listed proposed cuts, which include the closings of Gardendale Elementary, Sea Park Elementary, South Lake Elementary and Clearlake Elementary, as well the loss of 578 positions and cuts to various programs.
In the petition, organizers said a special election should be held to better educate the public about the sales tax.
"We cannot allow our children to get lost in the shuffle," organizers wrote within the petition. "We ask the school board to refrain from making decisions as impactful and divisive as those proposed without permitting the electorate to vote with a clearer understanding of the urgency of the financial situation."
Michelle Speisman, committee member and creator of Save Brevard Public Schools, said the petition holds no legality, but it shows the support of a community intent on finding alternative ways to pay for the $30 million in budgetary shortfalls.
"(The petition) is about moving forward with our schools," she said. "It turns the conversation away from school closures to a conversation about alternative solutions."
Ms. Speisman, who has a kindergartner at Gardendale Elementary, said the group is looking at other options than a special election, as well.
"Mayor Tulley of Titusville called for a blue-ribbon panel to look at other viable cuts they can work with," she said. "We are also looking at a fundraising campaign to take some ideas to stakeholders to show the school board. We support conversations with the public, in general, and we would like to also see a school tax next year to keep our teachers employed."
The Brevard County School Board will vote Feb. 12 on whether to proceed with the school closings and other budget cuts.
If the board agrees to move forward with the special election, voting will take place in November 2013.