Interest in seats is high after budget battle

By Jennifer Eisenbart

Staff writer

As expected, there will be challengers for the two spots up for election on the Burlington Area School District Board of Education this spring.

According to information provided by the school district, six people filed candidacy papers – two incumbents and four challengers.

As a result, the district will have to hold a primary election on Feb. 21. The candidates will be certified at the School Board meeting Monday and lots will also be drawn for placement on the ballot.

The two incumbents are John Anderson – the former School Board president – and current Clerk Susan Kessler.

The four challengers are Scott Elblein, Phillip Ketterhagen, Roger Koldeway and Megan Shuemate.

The School Board positions became targets in the upcoming election following a contentious budget process this past fall.

The School Board supported a 3.6 percent hike in the tax levy. But at the BASD annual meeting on Aug. 29, a concerted effort by a conservative-minded voting group failed to approve the levy.

The board voted in a special meeting two days later to certify the levy increase despite the lack of public approval. Opponents countered by getting enough signatures on a petition to force another special meeting Oct. 31 – the day before tax levies were required to be approved by state law.

District residents packed the Burlington High School gym to vote down a proposal to freeze the tax levy at the previous year’s level – a proposal that would have forced the district to cut student programs.

In the meeting, more than 750 people voted, with the margin 518-246, to reject the tax levy freeze. The electors then voted 511-194 in favor of approving the tax levy of $20.37 million as proposed by the School Board.

However, since then, opponents of the tax hike have frequented the School Board meetings, letting it be known that they disagree with board policies and decisions.

In an email statement, Koldeway said, “I will listen to all opinions, bring reasonable discussion to the Board, and work to inform the public on the decision making process.”

In a separate email, Ketterhagen said, “I decided to run for the Burlington School Board to work for student achievement, work for the respect to the school staff by the community, and work for fiscal responsibility.”

He also said more information about his campaign would be available on a website that he is developing.

Shuemate said she was unhappy with the School Board’s decision to go ahead with the tax increase, “against the wishes of the voters.”