Voters defeat Cape referendum

Unofficial results reported at Cape High
March 26, 2024

Voters defeated the Cape Henlopen School District’s March 26 referendum by 661 votes, with an unofficial total vote count of 4,274 against and 3,613 for.

At Cape High, 4,151 total votes were cast, with 2,031 voting for and 2,120 voting against. There were 17 undervotes, for a contest total of 4,168.

According to the Department of Elections website, an undervote occurs when a voter makes fewer than the maximum number of choices allowed in an election and when a voter makes no choice in a single-contest election.

At Mariner Middle, 1,962 total votes were cast, with 594 for, 1,368 against and 11 undervotes, for a contest total of 1,973.

At Rehoboth Elementary, 1,658 total votes were cast, with 924 for, 734 against and 6 undervotes, for a contest total of 1,664.

In all, 116 absentee votes were cast, with 64 for and 52 against. The contest total of all votes was 7,921.

After results were posted, district officials said via Facebook that they intend to move forward with a positive outlook although the result is not what was wanted. Over the next few weeks, the team will work together to determine next steps, according to the district statement.

The referendum had called for an increase of $0.21 to the capital projects tax rate to pay for a $15 million, 102-acre property along Cedar Grove Road upon which to build a $21 million district office, $6 million bus maintenance facility and $36 million swimming complex. The total projected cost was $78.6 million, for which the average homeowner would have paid an additional $60 per year. 

The district had also requested a $0.33 operating expense tax rate increase that would have generated over $5 million annually and would have cost the average homeowner $94 a year.

Voter turnout was high compared to previous elections, and this was the first time since a 2006 referendum that a pool was considered. In the 2006 election, the $8 million pool was a separate question that was also defeated by voters, while voters approved construction of Cape High, and elementary and ninth-grade campus improvements.

In 2018, the last time the district held a referendum, 3,236 votes were cast – 2,372 in favor and 864 against a plan to construct a third middle school, now known as Frederick D. Thomas, set to open in September in Lewes.

The 2018 referendum also included planning and design for a 20-room addition to Cape High and improvements to its cafeteria, as well as a permanent operating expense tax to pay for staff and maintenance at Fred Thomas Middle.

In 2016, Cape voters approved a referendum to build two new elementaries and renovate two others by a 2,947-1,031 turnout, and in 2014, voters also approved building Love Creek Elementary School, with 3,597 for and 2,410 against the new facility.


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