Voters reject Delaware school district tax hike

    For the second time this year, voters have rejected a referendum intended to pump more local money into Delaware’s second-largest school district.

    The Christina School District asked voters to approve a 37-cent property tax hike that would have been rolled out over the next three years. Roughly 54 percent voted against the measure, according to unofficial results tabulated by the Department of Elections for New Castle County. 

    Without the added revenue, Christina will have to slash $9.5 million from its budget, according to district officials. Roughly 80 educators and another 20 paraprofessionals are expected to be laid off.

    Wednesday’s results come three months after Christina voters overwhelmingly shot down a larger tax increase. Roughly three quarters of the electorate voted “no” during the February election.

    This time around, supporters of the referendum managed to more-than double the number of “yes” votes and decrease the number of “no” votes–all while boosting turnout by 35 percent.

    “Don’t consider this a complete loss, because I think this was a win in many ways,” said Christy Mannering, co-chair of the district’s referendum steering committee.

    The school district pumped nearly $10,000 into the referendum campaign, and supporters organized an outreach effort that included door-to-door canvassing. District officials also earned the support and cooperation of charter leaders, attempting to present a unified front to voters.

    The lead up to the prior referendum coincided with a grueling fight between Christina and the state over how to turn around three of the district’s lowest-performing schools. That battle dominated local school board meetings for months and generated countless headlines.

    School board president Fred Polaski said he wasn’t sure if the tussle with state officials played any role in how voters viewed Christina or the referenda. Polaski said an overall aversion to tax increases was the likely cause of his district’s defeat.

    Still, he tried to sound hopeful while addressing supporters gathered at Christiana High School.

    “We’re not going away,” Polaski told the tearful crowd. “Christina’s not going away.”

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.