BKW budget passes in landslide; Elble, Lovell, Lounsbury win seats

The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider
Teachers, past and present: Helen Lounsbury, left, congratulates fellow educator Kimberly Lovell, right. Lounsbury is a retired Berne-Knox-Westerlo teacher and Lovell is a literacy specialist at Middleburgh’s school district.

BERNE — With about 77 percent of voters supporting the district’s $23 million budget and two incumbents keeping their seats on the school board, board members and school officials say the May 16 Berne-Knox-Westerlo election indicates constituents believe the district is heading in the right direction.

Three winners

In a five-way race, Nathan Elble was the top vote-getter, with 526 votes; he will serve a three-year term starting in July. Elble had filled out an unfinished three-year term after winning the most votes in another five-way race last February.

“I think it signifies a lot of hard work,” Elble said of his victory, adding that it also shows voters are happy with the choices the current school board has made, including the adopted budget. Even with over three-quarters of voters choosing to pass the budget, he said he was surprised there not even more yes votes, given a 0.5 percent decrease in the tax levy.

Elble, an electrician and a BKW graduate, said he campaigned door-to-door, and also reached voters through a phone bank. He said his goal was to reach the “not normal” voters — parents with little time on their hands who might not necessarily be able to get to the polls as easily and who don’t normally have a high turnout at the polls. Three of Elble’s four children currently attend BKW.

Following him was Kimberly Lovell with 482 votes, giving her the other three-year term. Lovell had been appointed this February to a seat formerly held by Susan Kendall-Schanz, who had resigned with no explanation weeks before.

Lovell is a literacy specialist at Middleburgh Central School District, and has touted her perspective as an educator. With one of her three children attending BKW, she said she also found support from other parents in the community when campaigning. She said voters electing her, an incumbent, shows support for the current board, and said she was excited to continue with the board’s initiatives.

Helen Lounsbury won the third seat with 477 votes, winning her a two-year term from May 17, 2017, to June 30, 2019, filling out the term left vacant by Kendall-Schanz. She was sworn in Tuesday night. Lounsbury, a retired BKW teacher, previously served on the board from 1996 until 2012, occasionally as board president; at the time board members rotated into the presidency.

 

The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider
The next step: Helen Lounsbury, far right, is instructed by Matthew Tedeschi, center left, on how to stay in touch with the rest of the school board. Lounsbury had been sworn in minutes before after winning a two-year term on the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Board of Education. Incumbent Nathan
Elble, far left, and Kimberly Lovell, center right, both won three-year terms starting in July. Martin Szinger, center, garnered the least votes but said he would run again.

 

Noting the current board members have had a maximum of three years of experience, Lounsbury said her over 15 years of past experience on the board helped gain her votes.

A teacher at BKW for over 30 years, Lounsbury approached Lovell after the election to congratulate her as a fellow educator. She then jested to the other board members that these two teachers would be correcting their grammar and having them sit up straight.

Trailing the three winners were Randy Bashwinger, the town of Berne highway superintendent, with 388 votes; and Martin Szinger, a software programmer from Westerlo, with 330 votes. Both of them have children in the district and each was making his first run for the school board.

Szinger said he enjoyed campaigning and meeting people face-to-face, and said after the vote count that he would run again. Lounsbury told him she would like to see him on the budget advisory committee, due to his skill with numbers.

Bashwinger said his campaigning involved putting up two signs, going door-to-door in Berne where he lives now and Knox where he once lived, and using social media.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said.
 
 
The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider
Chatting before the polls closed: Randy Bashwinger, left, and Martin
Szinger, center, lost the five-way race for three seats on the Berne-Knox-Westerlo school board to Nathan Elble, Helen Lounsbury, and Kimberly Lovell, right.

Budget passes

With 825 total votes, the unofficial tally was 636 votes in favor of the budget and 161 votes against; 597 votes “yes” on the school’s bus proposition and 207 votes “no”.

The $23 million budget was drafted before BKW got about $100,000 more in state aid, half of which will go into the tax levy and effectively will lower taxes by 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on property. The bus proposition allows the district to spend up to $257,537, with $100,000 coming from the school’s transportation reserves and the remainder from a bond. This will pay for two 28-passenger buses and three cars for the district. Last year, the state reimbursed BKW 60.5 percent for a bus purchase.

District Superintendent Timothy Mundell said the district is underway in hiring an agricultural science teacher and organizing a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEAM) camp — programs proposed in the district budget. District business manager Sarah Blood said there would also be new initiatives for new clubs in the elementary school.

They both were excited the budget passed, crediting the reduced tax levy and a slew of new academic programs.

 

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