The replacement of Karcher Middle School – portions of which date to the 1920s – accounts for $32.7 million of a $43.7 million referendum for the Burlington Area School District. (Photo by Ed Nadolski)

District wins with proposal built on surveyed ‘tax tolerance’

A year and a half after voters rejected three separate referendum questions for the Burlington Area School District, district residents came back to the polls last November to pass what was deemed a tax tolerable capitol improvement plan.

The November referendum for $43.7 million, much less than the 2017 three-tiered $94 million requested in 2017, passed on a total vote of 6,150 (55 percent) to 4,976 (45 percent).

Superintendent Peter Smet, who expressed excitement about the passage, said it will help the district make needed repairs districtwide.

“This is very exciting news for the Burlington Area School District, it is going to give us an opportunity to significantly update our infrastructure in our school buildings,” he said.

The district looks to use the money to replace Karcher Middle School, complete needed maintenance tasks as well making repairs and security upgrades at other facilities.

The new middle school is projected to take up most of the referendum cost with an initial estimate of $32.7 million.

Considering the age of Karcher Middle School, portions of which were built in 1924, the facility has exceeded its lifespan, according to some BASD officials.

In the run up to the election, school officials told voters long-term repairs might not be cost effective, considering the rising maintenance costs.

With the passage, Smet said he and school officials can start planning for the future.

“It is an opportunity for us to address the middle school building and create a long-term solution for the school district,” he said following the November decision.

As for other items, the referendum includes reconfiguring the middle school to serve sixth through eight grades and moving fifth-grade students back to the elementary schools. The district currently serves fifth and sixth grades at Dyer Intermediate School and seventh and eighth at Karcher Middle School.

Under the new configuration, Dyer will become the district’s fifth elementary school and will also house district’s Montessori programs.

Although officials initially believed the passage would increase district tax rates, they discovered before the November election that was not necessarily case, since the area experienced in uptick in equalized property values.

To read the full list of the Standard Press’ Top 20 News Stories of 2018 see the Jan. 3 edition of the newspaper.