Cape board wants to get out the vote

Phone calls sent as reminders
Cape Henlopen School District voters can go to the polls 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, regarding a new elementary school. Discussing the upcoming referendum pictured are (l-r) school board Vice President Roni Posner, Director of Administrative Services Brian Bassett and Superintendent Robert Fulton. SOURCE FILE
April 1, 2014

Cape Henlopen School District voters will get a phone call Wednesday, April 2, reminding them to go to the polls and vote.

A referendum for a new elementary school will be held 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Cape Henlopen High School, 1250 Kings Highway, Lewes; Mariner Middle School, 1639 Harbeson Road, Milton; and Rehoboth Elementary School, 500 Stockley St. extended, Rehoboth Beach.

The proposed 720-student elementary school would sit on a 25-acre parcel across Route 24 from Beacon Middle School. District officials say there is no more room for students at four existing elementaries, and the 22 temporary classrooms have maxed out available space.

The referendum includes funds for six new classrooms at Mariner and Beacon middle schools.

During the March 27 school board meeting, board President Spencer Brittingham acknowledged the recent defeat of referendums in Seaford and Milford.

“Everyone's talking about Seaford and Milford, but we're Cape. We have shown a need,” he said.

Brittingham also cautioned Superintendent Robert Fulton about the wording of recorded phone calls that will be sent to all Cape district homes.

“I'd be careful how we word it,” Brittingham said. “We should just remind people that we're having a vote today.”

Fulton said the call will be a reminder to vote.

If the referendum is approved, an average district homeowner would pay $59 a year more for a $250,000 home assessed at $21,546. Senior citizens 65 years old or older are eligible for 50 percent savings on their property taxes up to $500.

The total property tax rate increase is 27 cents, which breaks down to 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.

The state has agreed to pay 60 percent of the $31 million total construction costs, leaving residents about $11 million to pay through the proposed property tax increase.

Residents 18 or older are eligible to vote in the referendum; a photo ID and proof of residence is required.

Whether the referendum passes or fails, six new consortium classes will be added to Beacon Middle School – the state will pay 100 percent of the costs to add them.

The district also intends to realign student populations at all the elementary schools in order to balance the schools socio-economically and racially, regardless of the referendum results. A task force will be reconvened to address needed improvements at the remaining elementary schools. If the referendum fails, Fulton said, the task force would have to explore options to handle student growth.

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