After two years of hard work and campaigning, the Charlotte County Yes! For Success amendment came to fruition.
Yes! For Success, also referred to as the millage referendum, proposed homeowners pay an additional $1 for every $1,000 of property value. The plan will bring an additional $17 million to the district.
Members of the School Board and supporters of the referendum were at the Historic Charlotte County Courthouse in downtown Punta Gorda to watch the results come in. With early voting and mail-in ballots counted, the referendum showed an early and wide lead. In the end, the community voted in favor of the referendum by over 10,000 votes.
"I'm thrilled that the community saw the value and voted to support the referendum," said Sue Sifrit, a former School Board member who spearheaded the referendum in Charlotte County.
School Board Vice Chairman Lee Swift was also present at the courthouse to watch the results come in. He said he feels better about retirement, knowing the referendum has passed. Cara Reynolds won the election for his seat.
"I think it puts us on the road for a lot of good things," he said.
The district intends to tap a citizen oversight committee to monitor the spending of the referendum revenue, and report to taxpayers.
When meeting with the public, the School Board told the public that dollars raised from the referendum would help provide competitive pay for staff. This, they said, would help attract and retain quality teachers.
School Board members and referendum supporters held town halls across the community to answer any questions the public had about the referendum, and clear up any confusion. At one meeting in late October, Superintendent Steve Dionisio and chairman Ian Vincent pulled up chairs to sit with members of the public and discuss the referendum.
With all precincts reporting, 47,029 of the votes, or 56 percent, were in favor of the referendum, with 36,627 against.
Vincent said he was almost at a loss for words seeing the results come in. As the remaining precincts came in, Vincent said he wanted to give "a great big thank you to the community. They had said loud and clear education is important in Charlotte County."
Superintendent Steve Dionisio said the School Board has a lot of work ahead to get ready to implement all of the initiatives the additional dollars will bring to the district.
"This has been a long journey, but it ended successfully with the community showing Charlotte County Public Schools that they support us," Dionisio wrote in a statement.