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The Brandywine School District’s tax referendum passes with overwhelming support

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

Unofficial results show over 9,000 voters hit the polls Tuesday despite the snowy conditions early in the day.

And 7,132 of them approved the request for additional tax to fund the Brandywine School District’s operating costs.

2,223 were against it.

Residents are now set to see a 45-cent tax increase spread out over two years - 25 cents in year one and 20 cents in year two.

This was Brandywine’s first referendum since 2016, and the first vote in the state since Appoquinimink's operating and capital requests failed by 248 votes in December.

Brandywine School District’s Bill O’Hanlon says there were some lessons learned there.

"I think that more parents and community members had a better understanding of the referendum, the process and the challenges schools face,” he said. “And I think we really made a diligent effort to contact almost every single civic association, community organization, non-profit - any organization within our district. We reached out to them to inform them about the referendum, and really just educate them and be as transparent as possible.”

That outreach took the form of representatives from the district speaking at three to five community meetings a night for the past few months, according to district officials.

Assistant Superintendent Kenny Rivera says they understood there were a lot of new factors to account for this year that differed from the 2016 referendum, including the larger role of social media and property reassessment.

“It’s hard to control the message sometimes and misinformation out there on social media, so we learned that lesson. And we saw a lot of questions and concerns around reassessment. So we tried to get ahead of that conversation, as well, to explain the impact reassessment will have on our residents,” explained Rivera.

Brandywine School District has seen 2.21% in budget growth in the past 8 years.

O’Hanlon says the win Tuesday will allow them to continue to fund the district’s current operations. That includes safety and security projects, after-school and alternative programming, staffing, and supplies.

It will also allow them to avoid big losses.

“It’s avoiding $6.5 million budget cuts next year, and roughly about 117 staff positions throughout the district. It's avoiding larger classroom sizes and less teachers. It's avoiding a setback of the progress that we've made in the Brandywine School District,” he said.

Brandywine’s referendum is the first in a string of tax increase requests from districts this year.

Red Clay and Colonial school districts hold referendums later this month. Smyrna and Cape Henlopen follow in March.

Appoquinimink expects to hold another vote this spring.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.