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Two of three school referendums pass on "Super Wednesday" in Delaware

Delaware Public Media

“Super Wednesday” for school tax referendums in the First State brought good news to two of the three districts seeking tax hikes.

Voters in the Christina and Cape Henlopen School Districts said “yes” while residents in Brandywine rejected their proposal by less than 200 votes.

The third time was the charm in Christina – but just barely.  After rejecting two referendums last year, voters there OK's a plan to raise $16.2 million. The margin was a mere 145 votes out of nearly 13,395 cast in a contentious battle that drew Gov. Jack Markell into the fray – with Markell publicly backing the referendum.

“During these difficult economic times when so many people are living paycheck to paycheck, and our seniors are living on fixed incomes, and 600 of our students are homeless – for them to come out say ‘yes, we’ll give you more money for the schools and our kids’ is very satisfying,” said acting Christina superintendent Robert Andrzejewski.

Andrzejewski says the new funds will allow Christina to restore the 78 teachers and 14 aides cut after last year’s two tax hike defeats and help cover anticipated cost increases.

“This funding will allow us to restore those positions.  So that’s all good.  That’s definitely our top priority,” said Anddrzejewski.

The margin in the Brandywine vote was nearly as close.  "No" votes outnumbered "Yes" votes by just 163 out of almost 7,621 cast.

"A loss is a loss.  Either it passes or it doesn't," said Brandywine superintendent Mark Holodick. "Of course being such a margin makes it that much harder to swallow. It's just disappointing."

Holodick added that the number of people who voted was also disappointing.

"We did, as a district, a pretty good job communicating the referendum as best we could.  It's becoming more and more challenging to communicate with the entire community.  There were a lot of meetings we attended and information we put out.  But clearly, just by the number of voters that turned out, it's pretty obvious that that voter apathy was in play today."

Holodick adds that he's uncertain if the district will come back with a revised request later this spring, saying that is something the district's school board will have to consider.

The request rejected by Brandywine residents was to raise funds for operating expenses, renovate three schools and install artificial turf fields at its high schools . It would have cost the average district homeowner  an extra $243 a year for the next three years and $206 a year after that once the $1.7 million turf project was completed.

The result in the Cape Henlopen School District was much more clear cut. Residents there overwhelmingly OK’d a phased-in tax hike to pay for construction of two new elementary schools and renovations to two others. The margin was over 2 to 1 – 2,947 to 1,031 to approve $48.4 million for the projects

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for nearly three decades.
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