Milford School Referendum Get the Facts

By Renate Wiley
Vice President Milford School Board

The referendum to build a new high school and increase the operational budget is the most important issue I believe the board has had to address. As the referendum date is quickly approaching, I am concerned about the amount of misinformation that is being shared. This referendum is too important to our district to miss an opportunity to share the correct information. Each voter needs to be able to make an informed decision.

The first point of clarification is why the Middle School was not remodeled. The State of Delaware uses a formula that determines the viability of continued funding for a building. Because of this calculation the State is not willing to allocate any funds for the upkeep of this site. An estimate was obtained to determine the cost of a remodel. That estimate came in around $36 million dollars. Because the building was over the index formula the State uses they would not contribute the customary 70%. This would leave the school district with 100% of the bill as opposed to the standard 30%. In other words, it would cost $15 million more to remodel the Middle School than to build a new high school. Since this is not an option, the Board would like to separate the land from the building. The land would continue to be used by the community to enjoy for recreational use. The building would be sold to an investor who is under different parameters than the school district. This plan would be a win-win for the district and the community.

The second fact relates to building a new high school. The present High School was never built as a high school. It was built in 1963 as a Junior High school and housed grades 7th and 8th. It wasn’t until 1971 that the change was made for the High School to move into the Junior High building and vice versa. That means that the last high school built in the district was in 1929. Although these are facts, it is important to know that the district could not build a new high school without consent from the State. The State decides if there is a need and the size of the building and uses a formula to determine the cost. This is all out of the hands of the district or Board. The State agreed that there is a need for a new building. They determined it should house 1400 students and formulated the cost of $69 million dollars. The districts portion of the $69 million is 30% or roughly $21 million.

By building a new high school we can serve our students better. One way is by offering more programs. Students now leave the district to attend programs that we cannot offer. By offering these additional programs, more money stays in our district. When one of our students leaves a portion of our funds goes with them. Secondly, by building a state of the art facility our district will draw other families to our community thereby increasing our economy and adding to our tax base. Finally, we need to alleviate the overcrowding in our Central Academy and elementary schools. Presently over 500 students more than capacity are enrolled contributing to larger class sizes and cramped quarters. By building the new high school there will be more room for growth in our elementary schools by removing the 5th graders and placing them with the 6th graders at Central Academy and by placing the 7th and 8th graders in the current High School. This reallocation will allow for sufficient space so that another school should not need to be built for 20 years.

Lastly, I would like to address the need to increase the operational budget. Since 2008, the state has reduced the educational budget by $58 million along with funding cuts from the federal government. The district portion of that is approximately $3.4 million. In addition to these cuts are unfunded mandates that we have to comply with and as a result we are in deficit spending. As a board and district we have cut the budget to the schools by 30%, cut some sports and coaching positions, and have had to take away tuition reimbursement for our teachers. Even with these cuts, we still have had to use our reserves. Fortunately for the district the Board was very prudent and was able to build up these reserves. Unfortunately, those monies will be exhausted before the next 2 years unless more funds are secured. We simply cannot operate if we don’t have the funds.

The Board understands that raising taxes is never a popular thing and that it can be a hardship on many families and individuals. This decision was not entered into lightly but rather from necessity. This sacrifice unlike many other taxes will directly affect our students and community.

Voting takes place on May 5th and is open to any person 18 or over who is a Delaware and US citizen and lives in the Milford School District. There is no need to preregister. Just report to any of the elementary schools or Morris with proof of identity and address. Please consider the facts when voting. It is my hope that once the facts are learned that the community will support the referendum. You can go to BuccaneerTomorrow.com to learn more or feel free to contact the superintendent or any Board member with questions.

Thank you.

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