BTC survey reveals more info needed before referendum

December 23, 2013

From beloitdailynews.com: “Blackhawk Tech: More info needed before pursuing referendum efforts” — Those responding to a recent survey mailed out on behalf of Blackhawk Technical College want more information before they can decide if they support a referendum for a tax increase.

More information needs to be provided on how the college is funded through local taxpayer dollars, tuition and state aid before moving ahead with a referendum, according to a news release from Blackhawk Technical College.

“The community survey has told us that we are vital in preparing today’s students for career success and that we play a critical role in providing the highly skilled workforce our communities need to grow and prosper,” Dr. Thomas Eckert, president of Blackhawk said in his message to the District Board on Thursday evening.

Blackhawk Technical College recently mailed a survey to 8,000 taxpayers in Green and Rock counties to seek input on pursuing an April referendum.

“However, it was clear that many of our respondents are unable to explain BTC’s operational budget,” Eckert said, “We feel more comfortable taking time to increase public understanding so voters feel more informed to make a decision.”

Officials from BTC say that because of reduced state aid, state revenue caps in place since 2010 and current cost projections, a shortfall of approximately $3.5 million is predicted for its 2014-2015 budget. Since 2010, Blackhawk has reduced annual operating expenses by more than $2.3 million.

“It was impressive to learn how many residents the college has impacted,” Bill Foster, President of School Perceptions, said in his report to the BTC District Board, “In fact over 50 percent of the respondents have attended at least one class at BTC.”

The BTC District Board will review the necessary reductions later in the spring. A referendum in the 2014 fall election is still under consideration.

A recent legislative change now permits technical colleges to seek funding support from their district communities through an operational referendum.

In November, the BTC Foundation hired School Perceptions LLC to conduct the surveys and assist in data gathering. School Perceptions is based in Slinger, WI, and is recognized for its expertise in gathering information that aids education institutions and their policy boards in their public policy pursuits.

Blackhawk Technical College is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System. BTC has five campus locations in Monroe, Beloit and Janesville, Wis. offering more than 50 programs including two-year associate degrees, one- and two-year technical diplomas and short-term technical diplomas. In addition, BTC is a major provider of customized training and technical assistance for the Rock and Green County business community. More than half of all adults living in Wisconsin have accessed the technical colleges for education and training during the last decade.

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