Cape Henlopen school district officials discussed the need for a new elementary school during a community meeting March 19 in Milton.
The meeting is one of a series of presentations in preparation for a Wednesday, April 2, referendum on a proposed new elementary school.
About 30 people attended the session at Milton Elementary School, for the most part asking basic questions about the size of the school, the effect of enrollment at the remaining elementary schools and whether the new school would improve bus times.
A referendum on the new school will be held Wednesday, April 2. It calls for a new 720-student elementary school on a 25-acre parcel across Route 24 from Beacon Middle School. The referendum also includes funds for six classrooms at Mariner and Beacon middle schools.
If the referendum is approved, Cape residents would pay a 27-cent increase on their property tax rate to help pay for the $31 million project. The state has agreed to pay 60 percent of the total construction costs, leaving residents about $11 million to pay. Of the 27-cent increase, residents would pay 10 cents per $100 of assessed property for capital improvement costs, and another 17 cents for operating expenses. The 10-cent increase would expire after 30 years; the 17 cents would be a permanent tax increase, officials said.
An average district home is assessed at $21,546, which means a resident would pay $59 more a year in 2017 when the full tax increase would go into effect. Senior citizens 65 years or older are eligible for a 50 percent savings on their property taxes up to $500.
Superintendent Robert Fulton said students enrollment at the four existing elementary schools – all of which use modular classrooms to accommodate children – would decline if the new school is built. Director of Administrative Services Brian Bassett said the new school would mean shorter bus rides for elementary students.
The location on Route 24 was a concern for Eli Ramos because of traffic, but he said he supports building a new elementary school.
“One fender bender, and you know what happens,” he said. “God forbid anything serious happens there.”
Lewes resident Peter Carter said he also supports the new school.
“I hope it goes well for everyone,” he said. “I'm always in favor of giving children a modern or better place to learn.”
Six new Sussex Consortium classrooms will be built at Beacon Middle School whether or not the referendum passes; those classrooms are paid 100 percent by the state.
Two more community meetings are scheduled before the proposed school goes to the voters: 6 p.m. Monday, March 24, at Cape Henlopen High School, and 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 25, at Beacon Middle School.
Voters go to the polls 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 2. Voting will be held at Rehoboth Elementary School, Cape Henlopen High School and Mariner Middle School.