Indian River School District residents approved the current expense referendum on Thursday, March 2. The final official totals were 7,091 votes for and 5,298 votes against.
“We are extremely grateful for the public’s support of this important initiative,” Interim Superintendent Mark Steele said. “In my 36 years as a teacher and administrator in the Indian River School District, I have never been more amazed and overwhelmed by the generosity of our parents and community members. It is that generosity that has allowed us to build a world-class system of public schools and become one the finest school districts in the State of Delaware. On behalf of our students, staff and Board of Education, I would like to thank everyone who supported this referendum. Because of you, the Indian River School District can continue providing students with exemplary instructional programs into the future.”
The Indian River School District will host a current expense referendum on Thursday, March 2, 2017 to seek additional local funding for school safety programs, measures related to enrollment growth and student services and support including technology, textbooks, student organizations and transportation.
Voting on March 2 will be from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Residents of the Indian River School District who are U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age are eligible to vote at any one of the following polling places: East Millsboro Elementary, Georgetown Elementary, Indian River High School, Long Neck Elementary, Lord Baltimore Elementary and Selbyville Middle School. Proof of identification or residency is required at each polling place. Residents DO NOT have to be property owners in order to vote.
If the referendum is postponed due to inclement weather, it will be rescheduled for Thursday, March 16, 2017.
The district is proposing a tax increase of 49 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The measure will raise $7,350,000 in additional local revenue. The average district taxpayer will see an increase of $95.41 in his or her annual property tax bill. Click here to use our calculator and estimate the tax increase for your property.
“The district’s unprecedented growth rate during the past six years has made it impossible for revenues to keep up with the needs of our students,” IRSD Superintendent Susan Bunting said. “In 2016-2017, our total enrollment increased to 10,467 students, which is an increase of nearly 300 students from last year. Since 2010, our enrollment has grown an average of 3 to 4 percent every year, thus creating a need for additional teachers and paraprofessionals, classroom supplies and materials, technology, textbooks and school safety initiatives. Growth is expected to continue into the future with district enrollment projected to be at or near 12,000 by 2022.
“This growth has put a strain on district budgets and made it difficult to meet the educational needs of our students. We are committed to providing the best possible instructional services to our students and hope residents will be supportive of the March 2 referendum, which will strongly influence our schools’ future.”
The chart below provides a breakdown of the tax increase and the amount of revenue to be generated.
Proposed Expenditure Tax Increase Revenue
Student enrollment growth 33 cents $4,950,000
School safety 8 cents $1,200,000
Student services and support 8 cents $1,200,000
TOTAL 49 cents $7,350,000
Student enrollment growth – Funding will be used to hire the teachers and paraprofessionals authorized through the annual unit count. The tax increase will also fund the purchase of additional supplies, materials and furniture to accommodate student enrollment growth.
School safety – This expenditure includes the continued funding of the district’s 15 armed school safety monitors, five School Resource Officers and two district investigators. Additionally, it will fund improvements to doors and windows and the purchase of radios, school and bus cameras, card readers and other security devices.
Student services and support – Increased tax dollars will be invested in technology upgrades, textbook adoptions, student organizations and other support services for students. Funding will be used for computer/tablet purchase and replacement; SMART board replacements; switch expansions/replacements; software license upgrades; textbook adoptions during the next three years in English language arts, math, social studies, science, art, music, dance and theater; and support for student clubs such as Odyssey of the Mind, Business Professionals of America (BPA), Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), FFA, robotics teams and Math League. Funds may also be used for additional services that directly benefit students.
“Additional funding for these measures is needed if our district is to continue providing students the top-quality education they’ve received in the past,” Bunting said. “The Board of Education showed tremendous foresight four years ago by placing armed safety monitors in all of our schools. This program has been a rousing success and we want to maintain the quality of these services in the future. The district has expended $1.2 million in local funds each year since 2013 to place these valuable security personnel in our schools. This amounts to a total investment of $3.6 million since the program’s inception. The peace of mind our safety monitors have given students, staff and parents is invaluable. We hope our community will partner with us to ensure the safety of every IRSD student for years to come.”
The Indian River School District currently has the lowest school property tax rate in Sussex County and will continue to have the lowest rate with passage of the referendum. In addition, the Board of Education has reduced the tuition, debt service and minor cap tax rates each of the past three years. This represents a total decrease of 16.5 cents and a savings to the average district taxpayer of $32.13. However, by law these funds could not have been used for the current expense initiatives described above.
Property tax assistance is available to senior citizens and disabled residents. For information, they should contact the Sussex County Exemption Coordinator at (302) 855-7762.
The district recently implemented a series of cost-cutting measures, including reducing school, curriculum and Board of Education discretionary budgets by 30 percent. The budgets for district office and the personnel department, not including salaries, have been reduced by 50 percent. The Outdoor Education Center at Ingram Pond has been temporarily closed to save on salaries, transportation, energy and supplies. Through administrative restructuring, the district has also saved money by allowing a director, an assistant superintendent, a principal and two assistant principal positions to remain vacant. District-sponsored travel for staff has also been curtailed for 2016-2017.
If the referendum is not approved by voters, the district could face up to $13 million in budget cuts (one-third of total budget), cuts to school safety, a significant reduction in staff due to an inability to meet payroll, larger class sizes, the loss of staff to other school districts and inadequate instructional supplies and materials. The district could potentially lose 90 teachers, 20 paraprofessionals, 12 food service staff, 10 custodians and 7.5 secretaries. Five administrative contracts were not renewed for 2017-2018 in addition to the five administrative positions that are currently being left unfilled.
Anyone with questions about referendum is encouraged to call the district’s Referendum Hotline at (302) 436-1079.
Voters on March 2 must reside within the boundaries of the Indian River School District, be U.S. citizens at least 18 years of age, and provide identification at the polling place. Residents DO NOT have to be property owners in order to vote. Acceptable proofs of identity, name and address include, but are not limited to, State of Delaware driver’s license; State of Delaware automobile registration card; State of Delaware ID card; work ID with photo and address; credit card with photograph and signature; document identifying person by photograph or signature; recent utility bill, rent receipt, business letter setting forth the person’s address or telephone directory listing in the current issue of the phone book; or any other reasonable document that identifies the person’s address.
Absentee voting is handled by the Sussex County Department of Elections at 119 North Race Street in Georgetown. Absentee ballots are available by mail until noon on February 24 and in person until noon on March 1. For more information, contact the Department of Elections at (302) 856-5367.