IRSD to host expense referendum on Nov. 22


UPDATE (Nov. 23, 2016) – Referendum has not been approved by voters.

The Indian River School District will host a current expense referendum on Tuesday, November 22, to seek additional local funding for school security programs, technology, textbooks, student organizations and measures related to enrollment growth.

Voting on November 22 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 School, Georgetown Elementary School, Indian River High School, Long Neck Elementary School, Lord Baltimore Elementary School and Selbyville Middle School. Proof of identification or residency is required at each polling place.

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. “The district is in an era of unprecedented enrollment growth; revenues simply cannot keep up with the needs of our students,” IRSD Superintendent Susan Bunting said. “Our total enrollment is 10,467 students for the 2016-2017 school year. This represents an increase of 296 students from last year. Overall, our enrollment has grown an average of 3 to 4 percent every year since 2010. This has created a need for additional teachers and paraprofessionals, classroom supplies and materials, technology, textbooks and school safety initiatives. Meeting these needs has put a strain on the district’s budget. Growth is expected to continue into the future, with district enrollment projected to be at or near 12,000 by 2022.

“The Indian River School District always strives to be a good steward of its taxpayers’ dollars. We are extremely grateful for the past support of our public. Hopefully, residents will be supportive of this important initiative on November 22 that 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
  • School Safety: 10 cents, $1,500,000
  • Student Enrollment Growth: 33 cents, $4,950,000
  • Technology: 3 cents, $450,000
  • Textbooks: 2 cents, $300,000
  • Student Organizations: 1 cent, $150,0000
  • TOTAL: 49 cents, $7,350,000

School Safety – This expenditure includes the continued funding of the district’s 15 armed school security 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 Enrollment Growth – Funding will be used to hire additional teachers and paraprofessionals authorized through the annual unit count. As a cost-savings measure, the district has left most of these positions vacant for 2016-2017. The tax increase will also fund the purchase of additional supplies, materials and furniture to accommodate student enrollment growth.

Technology – Increased tax dollars will be invested in technology upgrades such as computer/tablet purchase and replacement, SMART board replacements, switch expansions/replacements and software license upgrades.

Textbooks – The additional tax monies will be used for textbook adoptions during the next three years in English language arts, math, social studies, science, art, music, dance and theater.

Student Organizations – Funding will support 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 band and athletic uniforms.

“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. “One cannot put a price on school safety. The Board of Education showed tremendous foresight four years ago by placing armed security monitors in all of our schools. Since this program has been a rousing success, we want to maintain the quality of these services in the future. We believe the additional tax is a small price to pay to ensure the safety of our students and to maintain the quality of instruction they receive in our schools.”

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, these funds could not have been used for the current expense initiatives described above.

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 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 and a principal position to remain vacant. District-sponsored travel for staff has also been curtailed for 2016-2017. Finally, the district will not hire most of the additional teachers and paraprofessionals to which it’s entitled through the annual unit count.

If the referendum is not approved by voters, the district could face cuts to school safety, a significant reduction in staff due to an inability to meet payroll, larger class sizes, further discretionary budget cuts, the loss of staff to other school districts and inadequate instructional supplies and materials.’

Anyone with questions about referendum is encouraged to call the district’s Referendum Hotline at (302) 436-1079.

Voters on November 22 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. 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 November 18 and in person until noon on November 21. Affidavits are available at all district schools. For more information, contact the Department of Elections at (302) 856-5367.

(Photo by HOY en Delaware)