Delaware school district referendum rejected

(File/WHYY)

(File/WHYY)

Residents in the Colonial School District in northern Delaware voted down a proposed referendum Tuesday.

The district’s efforts to raise money for operating expenses and capital improvements both failed. Unofficial results from the Department of Elections showed the capital funding request was voted down 2,193 to 2,733. The operating expenses funding plan was rejected by a 2,067 to 2,961 vote.

“I am disappointed by [Tuesday night’s] outcome,” said Colonial Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey. “Now that the voters have spoken, tough decisions must be made that will impact programs, class size, and personnel,” said Blakey, in a statement posted on the district’s Facebook page.

The capital referendum would have funded more secure entrances for all district schools, while the operating referendum would have funded expanded preschool, technology upgrades, and other improvements. 

“The district feels strongly about the work we’re doing and the path forward so we will ask our school board for the opportunity to hold another referendum,” Blakey said.

The two-part referendum rejected on Tuesday would have increased taxes for residents by 39.4 cents per $100 of assessed home value. 

On Thursday, the Indian River School District in Sussex County will take another shot at their referendum which was narrowly defeated by just 30 votes in November. That 2016 vote came just five days after a damaging report was released by State Auditor Tom Wagner. The audit accused the district’s then-Chief Financial Officer Patrick Miller of malfeasance at the beginning of the year. Miller was placed on administrative leave and officially retired at the end of June.

In a follow-up report released on Monday, Wagner commended the district for developing policies and procedures in such a short amount to address the issues raised in the audit.

Thursday’s referendum vote will ask residents to support a tax increase of 49 cents per $100 of assessed property value. That would raise local revenue by $7,350,000 in additional local revenue and cost the average district taxpayer an extra $95.41 in annual property taxes. The money would be used to improve student safety and handle additional students’ needs including technology, textbooks and transportation.

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.