Cape decreases school tax rate for second straight year

Assessed value of homes continues to increase
July 20, 2021

Cape Henlopen school board approved a 3.97 percent tax rate for the 2022 fiscal year, the second straight year the rate has decreased by more than a penny from the previous year.

Director of Business Operations Oliver Gumbs said the decrease was possible because assessed value of homes increased by 3.99 percent this year, the largest increase in six years.

Under the new tax rate, homeowners will pay $.0397 per $100 in assessed value of their homes; the average tax per household is $1,076, Gumbs said.

Each penny of property tax generates about $139,000 for the district, according to the tax-rate proposal, which is an increase of about $5,000 from last fiscal year. The increased tax base will provide just over $950,000 in current operations revenue, an increase of $170,000 from last year.

The local cost for students attending residential schools outside the district remained the same. At $100,000 per projected student, Cape will pay $500,000 in tuition for five students to attend residential schools. 

Costs varied for Cape students enrolled in out-of-district alternative schools and schools for children with disabilities.

While the number of students projected to attend Howard T. Ennis School remained the same as last year at 15, tuition increased by $1,000 to $29,000 per student in 2022; the overall cost increased slightly from $420,000 in 2021 to $435,000 in 2022. 

The number of students projected to attend Sussex County Opportunity Program in Education decreased from 85 in 2021 to 50 in 2022, and the cost per student decreased as well.

In 2022, the estimated cost per student in SCOPE is $2,000, down from $2,900 in 2021. The total cost in 2021 was $246,500, and in 2022, the cost is $100,000. Transportation costs remain the same as last year at $90,000.

Costs and the number of projected students enrolled in Academic Challenge courses at Delaware Technical Community College remained the same as last year. At $1,100 per student, the cost is $297,000 for 270 students; an additional $20,250 provides transportation. 

Sussex County properties have not been assessed since 1974, but that will change within several years. In April, Sussex County Council voted 5-0 to settle with plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit to secure more money and better teachers for struggling school districts. 

The lawsuit, filed in 2018 by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-DE and Delawareans for Educational Opportunity, stated outdated property values penalize students in low-income areas because they receive less funding and fewer opportunities than those in wealthier school districts.

The reassessment is expected to cost the county nearly $10 million and conclude by mid-2024.

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