School board to vote on referendum questions


Jane Hoffman

On Monday, Jan. 23, the school board will meet to decide whether two referendum questions will be placed on the spring ballot.

Jane Hoffman, Social Media Manager

The school district is looking to introduce a referendum. A referendum is a public vote on, in this case one or two, well generated questions. A survey was sent out on Dec. 5 to the community to get a feel for the amount of support they were willing to provide. The school has proposed two questions on Jan. 3 to the school board which will either be accepted or denied at the Jan. 23 meeting. If accepted, the question or questions will be placed on a ballot in April that will be presented to the taxpayers of Berlin. 

“The BASD school board has been carefully managing pupil funds for decades, ensuring that those funds are used carefully and wisely in support of a high quality educational experience for generations of students,” Superintendent Dr. Emmett Durtschi said. 

Though this is Dr.Emmett Durtschi’s first year at BHS, this referendum is no new thought. Over the years, there was not a need for these changes but with recent cuts, the school needed to make a change to keep operations running smoothly.

“Due to state funding cuts over the past few years, including no increases to per public revenues for the last two years, as well as gradually declining student enrollment, which is largely due to declining birth rates and smaller family sizes, the need for an operational referendum has arisen. The possibility of an operational referendum was first proposed several years ago, well prior to my time here in the district,” Dr. Durtschi said. 

This referendum has two questions that were provided to the board. The first was the Highest Priority Projects which is asking for a $20 million referendum. This money will only cover the highest priority needs. This contains many updates at Clay Lamberton along with district-wide security updates, replacing flooring and reconfiguring traffic flow. The second referendum is asking for $30 million to not only address the high priority but additional projects. Those projects consist of remodeling the libraries, installing energy efficient heating and cooling units, installing LED lights on athletic fields and creating an exterior access point for the public to use the middle school’s fitness center. 

“The district engaged with Performance Services (PSI) last spring to evaluate our campus. PSI, along with Josh Youngbauer, toured every part of the district, noting the age and capabilities of our campus’ equipment, structures, and fixtures,” School Board President Catherine Kujawa said. “Using their engineering experience and expertise, along with local feedback, PSI then provided a list of projects within our campus that they deemed to be the highest priority. Administration then narrowed that list further based on cost estimates and needs.” 

Depending on the board meeting on Jan. 23 they will officially make the decision on how many questions will be placed on the ballot. 

“I am proud of this school district and the Berlin community. We encompass 14 municipalities and are responsible for the education of all students in this broad geographic area. Our taxpayers have been supporting the important work of public education for decades. I look forward to continuing to build on the proud history of our district and will promise to carefully manage any financial investments the community makes to ensure our plans for the district benefit the students and community for years to come,” Dr. Durtschi said.