Byron Public Schools referendum election quickly approaching

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(ABC 6 News) – The midterm elections are three weeks from today, on Nov. 2.

Voters in Byron will be asked two referendum questions regarding $44 million in tax money for the school district.

The Byron Public Schools referendum has not passed the past two times. This time they are breaking it into two questions instead of just one. The first question asks for approval for facility improvements including a renovation of the District Administration and Community Services building, updates to school kitchen facilities and classrooms. Question two will be asking for improvements to the auditorium and athletic facilities.

Question one has to pass before question two does.

Dr. Mike Neubeck, Superintendent of Byron Public Schools, says that for this referendum, they listened to their voters.

Voter turnout was low for the last referendum and the district thinks it was because of the pandemic. But, Dr. Neubeck is hopeful that community members will get out and vote this time around.

"We are also making sure that what we are asking for is our needs and not necessarily the whole Taj Mahal and I think people are understanding that," Dr. Neubeck said.

The community of Byron is growing, enrollment in the schools is growing and the facilities need to match that.

"We do understand with COVID and the pandemic the last year and a half and the impact, we know it’s a big ask of Byron. But we also know that with the growing community and the taxpayers and that Byron’s growing population that it will be smooth over time," Todd Lechtenberg, Director of Finance and Operations for Byron Public Schools, said.

Lechtenberg says looking at a $300,000 average home, it’s going to be about $15 a year in taxes.

"The money that is being asked in the referendum is really just going to be going to bring it up to a nice level so that we can continue to use it for the next 60 years," Jennifer Dole, Community Director for Byron Public Schools, said.

The Byron "Vote Yes" committee, a group of Byron citizens that are passionate about making sure everyone in the community gets out and votes, has been doing a lot of community outreach for this referendum using social media.

"The student is more than just what they study in the classroom, it’s what they’re doing in the classroom it’s what they’re doing outside the classroom. And we think question 1 and question 2 supports that holistically for Byron and then also support the community and engages others outside of school too," Nicki Nicholas, co-chair of the "Vote Yes" committee, said.

The biggest chunk of the $44 million will be going toward the District Administration and Community Services (DACS) building making it more of a community center in the center of the city.

"A huge piece of this is that we want to create a space for the adults in our community who normally would not have a school building to access during the day because our K-12 students are in it," Dole said.

The DACS renovation will create a space for both early childhood learners and senior citizens.

"They can go over and have book club for one hour and come over and read to the little kids for an hour," Dr. Neubeck said.

With the Byron Bears moving up in athletic class, they say the athletic facilities aren’t keeping up either.

"What we’ve learned in small communities is the school district is the pride of the community and so we are working together to partner with the community. We know that if our athletics facilities improve, then the businesses get impacted by that and all that so we’re all one community working together for the betterment of Byron," Lechtenberg said.

Voting is Nov. 2 at Byron Middle School from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.