First and foremost, no matter what you believe is best, go out and vote on Mar. 23. Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Residents, including students, who are 18 and older can vote, as long as they can provide proof of residency.
There are three facets to the Referendum: Capital, Operational, and Turf Fields.
The first part of the referendum is the Capital portion. The definition of a Capital Project is any undertaking that costs more than $750,000. There are four Capital Projects in this particular referendum that will cost a total of $49.6 million. However, capital taxes will not be increased for these projects. The $19 million that needs to be raised through local funding will be covered through the issuance of bonds. At the same time, prior bonds are being retired.
The first Capital Project involves renovations to Brandywine High School. BHS will get upgrades including window replacement, roof improvement, and bathroom renovations.
The second project is going to affect Carrcroft Elementary. Carrcroft’s entrance is not up to par with District safety standards, so the entire entrance will need to be redesigned. Classrooms and the HVAC will also be upgraded.
The third project regards Claymont Elementary where there needs to be some upgrades in order to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Additionally, there will be HVAC and electrical replacement, classroom and auditorium improvements, and roofing renovation. Finally, the District Office will also be relocated in order to improve pedestrian and motorist safety near the Claymont area.
The final Capital Project is the demolition of the old Burnett Building, which has been vacant for the last six years.
The second prong of the referendum trident is the Operational Field. This basically includes staffing and student resource costs. The money raised will be used to fund such programs as strings/orchestra for grades 4-12, AVID at all middle and high schools, the hihgly successful BSD STEM program, the Gifted program for K-8, and extracurricular and after-school offerings.
The third and final facet of the referendum are the turf fields that will be installed at each of the BSD high schools. Turf fields are to be installed on two fields each at Brandywine, Mount Pleasant, and Concord. This installation is intended to benefit athletes, cheerleaders, band members, and basically all community members who uses these public facilities. Turf fields will also allow the high school marching bands to host competitions at home, which could create fundraising opportunities for them. Similar turf fields have been installed in the recent past at Wilmington Friends, Tower Hill, Archmere, and University of Delaware.
All these things do not come free. The referendum is going to increase property taxes by 28 cents on every $100 of assets. Assets are not equivalent to property value, however. The benchmark metric for the assessed value - what is school taxable - is approximately 28-30 percent of the value of a property as of right now (obviously this changes with fluctuations in the housing market). Right now the “school tax” is 2.34%. If the referendum passes, this will increase to 2.67% for the first three years, and then will drop to 2.62% thereafter (the turf fields tax of .05% will end after three years). For example, if a property would sell for $200,000 - which would indicate an assessed value of around $60,000 - the owners are paying around $1300 dollars in school taxes right now. If the referendum passes, this will increase to about $1500.
This 33 cent increase is estimated to be approximately a $243 increase for the average family. After the first three years, this number will drop to $206.