District may delay building referendum until November

By Alex Johnson


The process to develop a community survey regarding potential updates and repairs to Burlington Area School District buildings has been set in motion for possible referendum in a year from now.

discussed Monday by the Burlington Area School District.

On Monday the School Board voted 5-2 to contract with School Perceptions, a company that surveys school communities to gauge approval of referendum options.

The four options being considered for the referendum – a maintenance and repair package for existing buildings; slight remodeling to Karcher Middle School with the maintenance package; significant remodeling and rebuilding of Karcher with the maintenance package; or a completely new middle school in place of Karcher.

Although the total costs for each project are flexible, subject to change, and have been informally adjusted, Plunkett-Raysich Architecture delivered estimates at the Facility Planning Committee meeting on Aug. 14.

The estimate for the maintenance and repair package is about $18 million, slight remodeling to Karcher is estimated at $52.5 million, Karcher remodel and slight rebuild is estimated at $70.3 million, and a new middle school is estimated at $82.8 million.

Board members Susan Kessler and Peter Turke voted not to pursue School Perceptions, instead they said they wanted to consider other surveying companies to help with the process.

“I didn’t like what (School Perceptions) brought to the table last time,” Kessler said. “They weren’t listening to what we were saying – any of us, really.”

Bill Foster from School Perceptions delivered a possible survey format to the School Board on Aug. 18. But it failed to gain consensus from the board.

School Perceptions also created and managed the survey for the three-question referendum that failed last April. That effort cost the district about $11,800 in addition to $2,000 for postage and approximately $3,900 for printing of the surveys.

After the failed referendum the board initially developed a timeline that resulted in an April 2018 referendum target. However, the board is now discussing pushing the referendum back to November 2018.

Board member Barry Schmaling discussed the timeline that he would support, including taking the time to educate the public on the necessity of the referendum options that would be presented.

“I would support taking the next three months or so, organizing one plan… taking the next three months after that educating the public about that plan – ‘this what we’re going to do in the district and we’re going to need your support’ – and then putting the questions out there.”

Concerns for some School Board members are families and students leaving the Burlington area to neighboring school districts like Waterford and Union Grove.

Board President Jim Bousman shared that the number one factor that families look at when moving to an area is the school district, and how that district is progressing.

“It’s about the economics of Burlington, Wis. – having kids in seats and keeping the best and brightest teachers,” board member Kevin Bird said. “Otherwise, we’re going to start to lose them.”