IREA pledges ‘full support’ for construction referendum

DAGSBORO — A potentially influential, in-house employee core has cast full support for Indian River School District’s May 7 major capital referendum that includes new construction, expansion and renovation to meet enrollment growth and over-capacity challenges.

The Indian River Education Association, the union encompassing hundreds of teachers and other district employees, has pledged its support for the May 7 referendum.

The district, in a follow-up request following a referendum defeat on Feb. 5, is seeking approval to build a new 2,200-student Sussex Central High School, eight additional classrooms at Indian River High School and a four-classroom addition at Selbyville Middle School.

The major capital request would represent a tax increase of $68.96 for the average district property owner. Obviously, those with much larger properties, such as farmers, would pay substantially more.

If the May 7 referendum is approved the tax increase will be phased in over a four-year period and not reach the maximum until fiscal year 2023. After FY23, the debt service rate will decrease every year until the construction bonds are retired.

The May 7 request does not include the current expense tax hike that was defeated along with the major capital pitch in February.

J.R. Emmanuelle

“There was a unanimous vote, not only to support the referendum but to also work to help pass the referendum,” said IREA president J.R. Emanuele at the March 25 IRSD board of education meeting. “We currently have events scheduled along with other communications planned.”

“I am very happy that we have received notification … that the IREA representatives voted unani-mously to support and work to pass the referendum,” said IRSD Superintendent Mark Steele. “That is going to help a lot.”

Voters on Feb. 5 rejected the $158.1 million major capital improvement project that carried a 40-percent $63.4 million local share by a margin of 3,866 to 3,202.

The current expense request for a 9-cent increase met defeat by a 3,836 to 3,124 tally.

District officials say construction of the new Sussex Central High School will allow the district to renovate and repurpose two existing school buildings.

Under the plan, Millsboro Middle School would move into the existing Sussex Central High School building, and Millsboro Middle School would be con-verted into an elementary school.

In preparation for the May 7 referendum, Mr. Steele said the district is employing a different approach and game-plan in efforts to inform, educate and visibly show the public the district’s needs. Photos and short videos of current overcrowding conditions will be incorporated in presentations.

“We’re going to change strategies,” Mr. Steele said. “It’s easy to stand up and talk about numbers but until people actually have the opportunity to see what it’s like, I think it’s a hard thing to grasp. We think this time around we need to go to the community and show them what it looks like.”

Two major community meetings, one in the north, one in the south, are planned along with one Face-book Live session. No dates were set as of March 28.

IREA membership totals nearly 850 members, representing paras, secretaries, custodians, teachers, nurses, counselors, psychologists, specialists and others, said Mr. Emanuele, a Visiting Teacher in the IRSD.

From the overall membership, there are multiple elected representatives in each IRSD building who are tasked with meeting with members in their building and ultimately voting.

Mr. Emanuele said the IREA at its March district liaison meeting was formally asked by IRSD Assistant Superintendent Jay Owens to help with the referendum.

Mr. Emanuele made note that the district never requested the IREA’s support for the first referendum.

“We now seem to be on the same page. District office is sharing with us what their efforts are going out into the community,” Mr. Emanuele said. “We can all work together.”

Mr. Steele said with the “IREA behind us, that with the number of people” the district can “really put a blitz on through the month of April and beginning of May, trying to get as many positive voters as we possibly can.”

Referendum voting

Voting May 7 is from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

District residents who are U.S. citizens and 18 years of age or older are eligible to vote at the following local polling places: East Millsboro Elementary School, Georgetown Elementary School, Indian River High School, Long Neck Elementary School, Lord Baltimore Elementary School and Selbyville Middle School.

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