Delaware Public Media

Indian River School District's tax referendum fails again

May 7, 2019

Residents in the Indian River School District rejected a tax referendum for the second time this year.

Voters said “no” to a capital improvement request by a narrow 65 vote margin, with 4,643 people voting against and 4,578 in favor. 

It failed by 664 vote in February.

The referendum sought $63-million dollars in funding for the construction of a new Sussex Central High School, an eight-classroom addition at Indian River High School and a four-classroom addition at Selbyville Middle School.

Indian River superintendent Mark Steele called the referendum’s failure a “serious blow” to the district with steadily growing enrollment.

“We are faced with an anticipated enrollment growth of more than 1,700 students in the next six years and there is no guarantee the State of Delaware will approve funding for these construction projects in the future. As a result, we may not be able to host another major capital improvement referendum for several years," said Steele in a statement. 

Steele says that will force Indian River to use portable classrooms to handle overcrowding.

"We project the need for about 22 portables across the district in the next five years. The cost of portable classrooms is astronomical and these units must be funded through our operating budget. This will likely necessitate the need for a current expense referendum sooner than we expected," said Steele in his statement.

District officials said the average property owner would have seen their tax bill increase a maximum of $68.96, if the measure passed.  And that would have been phased in over four years. It also dropped its operating budget ask in this second vote, lowering the projected impact on the average property owner by $18.59 per year.