Lessons learned from failed vote

March 29, 2024

Cape Region residents turned out in record numbers to vote in the Cape Henlopen School District referendum March 26. The ask for a modest increase in school tax was defeated by 600-plus votes. 

Although legitimate reasons exist for not supporting this referendum, the amount of misinformation that was spread via social media during the campaign is highly concerning. Posts containing miscalculations of the tax implications and misrepresentations of how property reassessment would factor in were prevalent on multiple platforms.

While on one hand this is a microcosm of what’s happening nationwide, on the other it’s an indication that the merits of the campaign did not reach many voters.

School taxes are calculated based on the 1974 assessed value of a person’s property. If a new home is built, its property is assigned a 1974 value. It has nothing to do with the current value of a home. The reassessment currently underway will update these numbers, but school districts cannot benefit. When reassessment is complete, districts must adjust their tax rates to collect an equal amount of tax revenue. There will not be a windfall for school districts. 

Another major issue for voters was the pool. The district erred by grouping the natatorium with the rest of the ask, which included operating expense increases for more teachers and staff, beefed-up school security and other necessary items. 

The district has demonstrated the need for more classroom space at the high school due to a rapidly increasing population. It’s a misconception that the Cape Region is only attracting retirees. 

To accommodate a larger high school, the district office must move off the Kings Highway campus. The district would also benefit from a centralized bus maintenance facility. Both are needs.

The pool, however, was a want, and many voters recognized that and couldn’t justify the $36 million price tag. 

We hope the district comes back with another referendum soon and puts forth a similar proposal without a natatorium. Perhaps voters will then recognize the benefits to students. 

Land isn’t getting any cheaper. The sooner the district is able to secure land, perhaps a smaller parcel, the better off it will be in the future.

  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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