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Recount Upholds Failure of First 2011-12 Budget Vote

Recanvassers combed through the ballots from Saturday's budget referendum in Tuesday's recount, ultimately certifying the defeat by nine votes.

of Saturday’s budget referendum upheld the initial determination that the budget was defeated, with the margin of failure growing from a single vote to nine.

Twelve election officials split into groups of two to recanvass every ballot cast on the education portion of Saturday’s budget referendum, .

“If nothing else, this first vote shows the value of people voting and I would encourage even greater participation at the next referendum,” First Selectman Bill Davidson said Tuesday.

According to state statute, a recount is necessary when the vote margin falls below less than one half of one percent. The 12 recanvassers, grouped in pairs of opposing political parties, scanned through each ballot and recorded the response to the second question, then went over each individual marking to ensure that the intent of the voter was carried through.

“It’s definitely about the voter’s intent,” Republican Registrar of Voters Jeff Dunkerton explained. The recanvassers looks at each ballot and if there is a question, the referendum moderator, Adrienne Spera, “has the final say as to the intent.”

The ballot-tallying machine counts a vote so long as 10 percent of the bubble is marked for a given question. The recanvassers job was to search through the ballots to ensure that nothing was missed.

“With your eye, with my eye, we can easily determine if that’s 10 percent,” Dunkerton said.

The teams went through the votes from District I (Huckleberry Hill Elementary School) first, losing three more votes, bringing the district’s total from 555-690 to 552-693.

The vote totals for District II (Brookfield High School) also fell, from 1,257-1,114 on Saturday night to 1,257-1,116 after the recount.

The tally of absentee ballots did not change.

The official recount brought the vote total for question two to 1,850 “yes” and 1,859 “no,” a deficit of nine votes.

“Observing the actual recount was a very interesting process, unique to see,” Davidson said after the recanvassing was finished. “And the participants were extremely careful to determine that every vote was accurately counted.”

“The result didn’t change, so it’s in the laps of the Board of Finance to look at the budget — either the town side, the school side or both sides, it’s their choice — and whatever their best judgment, bring that back to the voters,” he added.

The Board of Finance (BOF) will meet tonight (Tuesday, May 17) at 6 p.m. in the Brookfield High School media center to adjust the budget before it goes back to voters Memorial Day weekend, on Saturday, May 28.

The Town Clerk’s office will be open from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. this Saturday, May 21, and every night next week until 7 p.m. to give the public ample opportunity to apply for absentee ballots in consideration of the holiday weekend.

The Recanvass Team

Moderator — Adrienne Spera (R)

John Berger (R)

Ida Filosa (D)

Marjorie Carmody (R)

Linda Frame (D)

Thomas Dunkerton (R)

Barbara Gillis (D)

Joanne Reiner (R)

Elizabeth Hegarty (D)

Elizabeth Roberts (R)

Veronica Smith (D)

John Furlong (U)

Paula Hopewell (D)

Carol Dores May 17, 2011 at 03:35 PM
If there is any chance you will not be in town or cannot get to vote on Saturday, May 28 (Memorial Day weekend), you can get an absentee ballot. Please make sure to vote YES twice...once for town budget and once for education budget! Thank you!
Ray DiStephan May 17, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Thank you to all of the people who assured us of an accurate vote count.
Rosemarie & Dale Corbin May 17, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Hey. How can you advise people to vote yes when you have no idea what the new numbers from the BOF will be? Is the fix already in or are you willing to drink the Kool-Aid no matter what it is?
Carol Dores May 17, 2011 at 04:32 PM
Rosemarie & Dale Corbin, Given past history, each time a budget gets defeated, the BOF either holds the budget flat or reduces it. So either way, the sooner it gets passed, the more likely it will be close to the original level, which is the right level.
Margaret Petta May 17, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Given the next vote is Memorial Day weekend, I encourage all town members to get out and Vote & if you will be out of town or too busy, please get an absentee ballot. Althought, I would love it if everyone voted yes, I would be happy if 100% of Brookfield exercised their right to vote. This would be an amazing lesson to show the children of Brookfield... Democracy in Action.
Longtime Brookfield resident May 17, 2011 at 04:47 PM
Rosemarie and Dale I agree we must see how our elected officials respond and make our choices based on thier actions - i for one have been totally soured by our POLITICAL leaders ( should i say one of our LEADERS) and really dont want to drink the KOOL aid anymore until someone becomes accountable and responsible for our money- We are all tightening our belts and making tough day to day descisions and the key is to make these difficult descisions without major impacts on our day to day lives.
Rosemarie & Dale Corbin May 17, 2011 at 05:06 PM
If it was at the right level it would not have been defeated. DUH
Rosemarie & Dale Corbin May 17, 2011 at 05:23 PM
One of the blessings of our system in voting on our yearly budget is the fact that we the voters can be involved and let the BOF know what we need for them to do. I encourage for the folks to go to the meeting tonight and let ALL voices be heard. They won't know if we don't speak up as loudly as the so called KOOL aid drinkers. They keep speaking for the so called sake of children but totally forget that children have families and some of them can't afford the pie in the sky memtality. As a community there are many who are badly surviving and the compassion showed by those supporting higher taxes has been lacking and that is one lesson our children should not be taught.
Colette Sturm May 17, 2011 at 05:26 PM
If you are unhappy with the town leadership, I respectfully submit that the appropriate time to register your discontent is during elections and not during the budget referendum. As far as accountability of money, please review the following study: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/01/educational_productivity/ Published in January, this independent agency found that out of all the CT districts, only one district ranked higher than Brookfield in achievement for the amount of money spent per pupil. (Or conversely, only one district spent less money for as high an achievement score.) To me, this demonstrates that we are getting a great return on investment for our educational tax dollars. As far as the kool aid references, this refers to a tragic event in which 918 people lost their lives. Please try to use another analogy.
Longtime Brookfield resident May 17, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Kool Aid was wrong chioce of words my fault - and great reference thanks
Rosemarie & Dale Corbin May 17, 2011 at 06:01 PM
TO Colette Sturm I'm glad you brought up the"efficency" report. It is full of "doudle speak" but it does confirm the basic fact that there is no way to prove that education achivement has any relation to the money spent.
Margaret Petta May 17, 2011 at 06:16 PM
To Collette: Thank you for sharing the Education Report!
Christopher Lynch May 17, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Ray, Just a quick note to let you know your board does a great job. Your time and dedication is very much appreciated...keep up the good work for the great future of the children and comunity of Brookfield
Ray DiStephan May 17, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Thank you Chris. We are trying to do the best that we can.
Play Nice in The Sand Box May 17, 2011 at 07:25 PM
Thanks to the people who share facts and figures on these threads... Very refreshing!!!
jamr May 17, 2011 at 08:01 PM
Hmmmm - let's pick and choose what parts of the report we wish to share - Without clear controls on how additional school dollars are spent, more education spending will not automatically improve student outcomes. . . . . That does not mean that money can’t—or doesn’t—have an effect on achievement . . . . and that without a systemic approach to spending, unfocused increases in expenditures are not likely to have any impact on student outcomes Be sure to read the recommendations section of the report too.
JLM May 17, 2011 at 08:01 PM
As a parent of children and a Brookfield High School Alumni, I was disappointed to see the people of Brookfield fail to pass the budget vote and once again it was the education portion that was in question. Why it more often than not, The Town of Brookfield is has to sacrifice our children’s education in some way, shape or form? I attended the meeting where the BOE discussed the particulars of the budget and it actually was a very good operating budget. While I understand that no one would like to pay more in taxes, I think of it as you have to invest money into something if you want it to get a return. If you look at it, I was a return on your investment years ago, I attended Brookfield Public Schools and graduated and then went onto college where I received a degree. I got married and settled down in Brookfield and now my kids attend Brookfield Public Schools. I vote YES because it is important! A child should have the best educational foundation possible and as a town it is our responsibility to provide that even if it means our taxes go up by a SLIGHT increase!
Rob Gianazza May 17, 2011 at 09:59 PM
Thank you for your support of Brookfield education. But support without careful consideration can be wasteful. I appreciate very much your attention to the detail of our budget. It is up to the people of Brookfield to elect representatives to public office that are the shepherds of our community. As the prior poster pointed out, spending money without focus can indeed be wasteful. It is up to the community to question these budgets as they are formulated and presented to make sure they represent the values we expect from our tax dollars. The report that Mrs. Sturm referred to emphasizes how well Brookfield is rated compared to the rest of Connecticut. Thank you Colette for sharing that with us.
Play Nice in The Sand Box May 17, 2011 at 11:08 PM
Could and Do people differ on where on how much should be spent. Sure!!! And they have every right to express their opinion on both sides. BUT, in a community that is so small, I hope we can continue to express those opinions in a way that does not be-little the others view point. Think Before You Post... Would you really speak to a neighbor that has a sign in their front yard that supports the opposite side with that tone and attitude? If not? Then maybe you need to tone down your post. Also, a big thanks to our volunteer leaders that have taken the time to review budgets, ask questions, attend and take input from the community and YES even take the time to respond to queries on the Patch.
Steven DeVaux May 17, 2011 at 11:20 PM
Once again the new voting machines have been proven to be less than reliable. Does your vote really count? Maybe not. That's progress...
Ken May 18, 2011 at 03:17 AM
What does 9 votes really tell us? Not very much. This cannot even be measured on a % basis. The difference is meaningless in terms of % if you try to say it was defeated by x% since the % is not material. My thoughts are either a do over of the same budget or some small cut say $10k and then re do the referendum. If the budget had passed by one or even 9 votes I would likewise not be viewing it as an overwhelming level of support.
paula hopewell May 18, 2011 at 11:22 AM
For me, the handcount confirms the reliability of the new voting machines. The total number of ballots cast was the same, every vote counted. Variations in the tally are due to ballots that the scanner could not read, where the human eye can discern voter intent. For example, a voter might draw a circle all the way around the "bubble" indicating his/her choice. The scanner cannot read his/her intention, but human beings can. The vast majority of voters in Brookfield correctly completed their ballots by fully filling in the bubbles appropriately. For those few who did not, the handcount can give an accurate tally of their intention, in most cases. The old lever machines were not perfect. Voter intent could never be reconstructed, because there was no paper record of voter intent. The state laws mandating recounts in close votes assures a good count of town opinion.
Steven DeVaux May 18, 2011 at 12:05 PM
Sorry Paula I have to respectfully disagree. Only God knows our intentions. Humans can only speculate.
paula hopewell May 26, 2011 at 01:24 AM
I am curious what voting method you think we should use? How did you know for sure the old machines were accurately recording voter intentions? We have no way to know if voters used the old machines correctly either. We are humans using human machines to tally votes. No method is perfect.
Steven DeVaux May 26, 2011 at 02:46 AM
Telling people your vote counts is a misrepresentation at best. Perhaps telling people your vote MAY count accurately tells the public the state of the voting method used. They voters never vote incorrectly either. They may not follow the instructions but again, that is theirs to insure, a responsbility to vote correctly...not the responsibility of people to decide for others how they would have voted had they followed instructions. How about this...if you don't follow the instructions given, the vote is invalidated. Tell them that before they vote, not after.
Fed Up With High Taxes May 30, 2011 at 12:01 PM
Where's Our Money Going? Take a close look at the voting pattern in this town. For years, the East side generally votes more Yes votes for higher spending, the West side, more NO votes for higher spending. Since the West side has a lower income per capita base than the East side, clearly, people with a lower income base are hurting. Time to look at new sources of revenue. For example, why don't the 5 towns on Candlewood Lake enter into a joint agreement to charge a lake use fee, based on boat size, for non-residents of the 5 towns, and for out-of-staters.
Steven DeVaux May 30, 2011 at 12:19 PM
I think the idea of carving out the Town of Candlewood from Rt 7 and west or Rt 25 west, depending on folks choice is a great idea. Those that want to spend then do, those that don't won't. Besides, those on the east side are Friends of the Lake and have their own lake. The folks in the Town of Candlewood could then offer their students a choice of higher education. They wouldn need only one elementary school. They could possibly offer a variety of middle/high schools. It could actually allow both groups to go their separate ways in an amiable and friendly way that would solve the dilemna of income that has perplexed and vexed Brookfield for over 20 years.

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