Delaware Public Media

Indian River School District preps for February referendum

Dec 26, 2018

Voters in the Indian River School District (IRSD) once again head to the polls for a referendum vote.


The vote is on  February 5, 2019 - and it’s for both major capital improvement and current expenses.

Mark Steele is the superintendent of the IRSD.

“The first part is the the major capital - or what we call debt service - and that’s going to be a 33-cent increase. And that will be increased over four years,” said Steele.

Steele explains that’s per $100 of assessed property value.

He says that money would be used to build a new Sussex Central High School and add much needed additional classrooms to Indian River High School and Selbyville Middle School.

“Currently we’re riding at about 10,700-plus, almost 10,800 students. Our projections, using various models, are looking that in 2024/2025, we’re going to hit over 12,000,” Steele said.

Steele adds the other portion of the referendum seeks a nine-cent increase in the District’s current expense tax rate - currently $2.35 cents.


Steele says next month - he’s hosting four meetings to discuss the district’s needs and the referendum.  He’ll also answer residents’ questions.

The first meeting is January 7, 2019 at Sussex Central High School.  The others are January 16, 2019 at Georgetown Middle School, January 24, 2019 at Indian River High School and January 30, 2019 at Lord Baltimore Elementary School. All the meetings start at 6 p.m.


Facts about the Feb. 5 referendum:


Major Capital Improvement

  • Construction of a new Sussex Central High School with a 2,200-student capacity
  •  8 additional classrooms  at Indian River High School
  •  4 additional classrooms at Selbyville Middle School

Current Expense

  •  Staff, curriculum, supplies, transportation and utility expenses for new high school and additional elementary school

Ballot will consist of two separate questions, with each requiring a “for” or “against” vote

Proposed property tax increase

44.24 cents per $100 assessed value (35.24 cents major cap, 9 cents current expense)

Beginning in Fiscal Year 2020

Impact to average district property owner: $91.37 per year based on average district property assessment of $20,653

Additional Projects

  • Conversion of existing Sussex Central High School into a middle school
  • Relocation of Millsboro Middle School to existing Sussex Central High School building
  • Conversion of existing Millsboro Middle School building into an elementary school
  • Redrawing of attendance areas in Georgetown, Millsboro and Long Neck to alleviate overcrowding 

NOTE: These projects will not be funded through the referendum. The district will utilize minor capital improvement funds.

Question 1: Major Capital Improvement

Project                                                                                                 Local Cost            State Cost

New Sussex Central High School                                                 $56,337,400        $84,506,565

Indian River HS addition (8 classrooms)                                  $5,716,700           $8,575,100

Selbyville Middle School addition (4 classrooms)                 $1,351,300           $2,026,900

Total Cost                                                                                            $63,405,400        $95,108,565


  • Construction projects are funded from 60% state funds and 40% local funds. Local share will be generated through proposed tax increase.
  • New SCHS will have a 2,200-student capacity and be located on property next to existing SCHS.
  • New SCHS will be approximately 309,799 square feet.

Tax Impact

  • Debt service property tax increase of 35.24 cents per $100 of assessed value
  •  Impact of $72.78 per year for average district taxpayer

Question 2: Current Expense

Additional current expense funding needed for:

  • Hiring of secretaries, custodians and a safety monitor for additional elementary school
  • OECs, curriculum and discretionary budget for additional elementary school
  • Additional teachers, utility costs, maintenance supplies and transportation expenses associated with new high school

Estimated cost: $1,488,025

Tax impact

  • Current expense property tax increase of 9 cents per $100 of assessed value
  • Impact of $18.59 per year for average district taxpayer

Total Tax Impact

Proposed property tax increases (per $100 assessed value):

Initiative                                                              Increase

1. Major Capital Improvement                   35.24 cents

2. Current Expense                                         9 cents

Total                                                                      44.24 cents

Impact to average taxpayer (based on average assessment of $20,653):

Initiative                                                              Increased Tax   

1. Major Capital Improvement                   $72.78

2. Current Expense                                         $18.59  

Total                                                                      $91.37