Cape referendum deserves support

March 20, 2018

Cape district residents 18 and older can vote yes or no today, Tuesday, March 20, in a referendum seeking funding for a new middle school in Lewes and a 20-classroom addition to Cape Henlopen High School. Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Cape High in Lewes, Mariner Middle in Milton and Rehoboth Elementary.

Construction portion of this referendum will cost over $55 million. If approved, state dollars will pay for $34.2 million - 60 percent - of that cost. Resident taxes would fund the bonds to pay for the remaining 40 percent - $21.4 million. Because of favorable interest rates related to the funding of previous construction projects, including three new elementary schools and renovations to two others, taxes will not have to be increased over rates previously approved by voters in referendum votes.

The duration of those increases, however, will be longer to pay off bonds needed for this construction.

Annual operating costs for the new middle school and high school addition - primarily staffing and utilities - would be funded by a permanent tax increase to households amounting to an average of nearly $50 per year.

Growth is driving these projects. Cape district population is increasing rapidly, and it's not just retirees without children. Student population surpassed 5,000 last year. In this school year an additional 200 students registered.

University of Delaware projects population here will continue to increase until the mid-2030s when it will level off. District officials expect these expansions to satisfy that growth so that now, and in years beyond, primary focus can shift completely to academic excellence and student achievement.

Because of demonstrated need and Cape voters' steady support for public education, Delaware's Department of Education has given the district the rare and enviable opportunity of leveraging, through this referendum, all state dollars available this year for school construction. The opportunity to gain 60 percent funding for important school and community resources shouldn't be missed.

This referendum deserves full support from the voters.

Dennis Forney wrote this editorial.

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.