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Colonial School District says over 100 jobs at stake in second referendum vote

Megan Pauly
Delaware Public Media
5th grader Journei Ruff and her mother Alice talk about the importance of in-school and summer extracurricular programming.

133 Colonial School District staff members stand to lose their jobs if voters reject a second tax referendum next month.

The district’s school board announced Tuesday night notices will start going out to those on the chopping block this Friday.


Teachers make up 11 percent of the cuts. Another 29 percent are district paraeducators.

Colonial School Board President Ted Laws says he’s counting on voters to avert those cuts by backing its second referendum on June 6th.

“It’s a difficult position that we’re all in right now," Laws said. "We have to plan for the worst case. If we pass the referendum – or I should say when we pass the referendum, we’ve got to pass the referendum – because it’s all about the kids. If we can’t provide the services to the kids it’s going to hurt us as a community as a whole.”

The second attempt again seeks an additional 38 cents per $100 of a home's assessed value – phased in over two years - to bolster district’s operating budget by $10.9 million dollars.

The first time around that request lost by an 894 vote margin. Colonial is also dropping its capital request of 1.4 cents per $100 of assessed value – which failed by 540 votes in February. That would have raise $4.7 million to install secure entrances at all district schools over 3 years.

Some students and their parents also showed up to fight for programs that could be at risk. Southern Elementary 5th grader Journei Ruff enjoys art and the Math 24 Club she joined this year.

She’s also attended a STEAM camp – focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math - every summer since kindergarten – and says it’s helped her come out of her shell.

“I’m kind of shy, I’m not really the person who will walk up to someone like some people," Ruff said. "They’ll be like ‘hey how are you?’ I’m not really that type of person.”

Her mother Alice isn’t sure where she’d send her daughter this summer if the free 6-8 week program disappears.

“You know – families are really trying to make ends meet. And camps are extremely expensive so it just reflects the value of what this district has to offer the community.”

The Colonial School Board says it won’t settle on programs cuts until after the June 6th referendum– but had to decide which positions could be lost.

Notices go out Friday to 133 people who would lose their jobs. The district also expects to trim over 40 positions through resignations and retirements.

But Colonial also faces proposed state funding cuts.  Gov. Carney has offered districts the chance to cover that though a match tax - raising taxes without a referendum vote.

But Laws doesn’t like that option.

“If we were to invoke a match tax, it’s going to cause us to have difficulty getting any other referendums passed at that point in time," Laws said. "It really puts us at a disadvantage if we were to go that way.”

Laws says the district will wait to see the final state budget and the referendum results before deciding on any programs cuts it would make along with its proposed layoffs.

He’d like the General Assembly to do a better job addressing statewide educational budget issues instead of kicking the can down to local school boards.

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