Seaford District seeks referendum passage to maintain momentum

Roof replacement for Central Elkementary School is the major capital improvement project included in the Seaford School District’s March 4 referendum. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

SEAFORD — Seaford School District isn’t asking for the moon.

Just a slice of the educational funding pie. It’s a very small slice.

A double-pronged major capital improvement/current expense referendum March 4 seeks funding to cover the local share of a roof project at Central Elementary School and districtwide operational costs.

Tied to the referendum is the district’s overall mission, which Seaford School District Superintendent Dr. Corey Miklus says is to maintain momentum built in recent years that has brought to the district:

• a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence;

• Delaware State Teacher of the Year, Dana Bowe;

• Department of Education Recognition Schools;

• a Superstar in Education winner; and

• a notable jump in test scores, from last to the top 10 statewide.

“It is one of those things where we want to continue the academic excellence that has taken place in the last five years,” said Dr. Miklus. “It is important that this operating expense referendum can go through for us and we can continue that work.”

For major capital, the Seaford district in August 2019 submitted certificates of necessity to the Delaware Department of Education for projects at each of its six schools.

“It came to a total of $187 million worth of capital improvement projects. We were approved for the one, and of that one application we were approved for, they (DOE) only selected the roof to replace,” said Eulinda Gallagher, Seaford School District’s director of administrative services. “The CN we submitted for Central Elementary School was a total $27.7 million. Think about that. We were only approved for a partial roof replacement. The total amount that we were approved for was $1,963,900.”

In the 75/25 state/local ratio, the local share for the roof replacement is $491,000.

District officials note Seaford’s current expense/operating tax rate has not changed in more than a decade.

“The last time we had a successfully passed operation expense referendum was 14 years ago,” said Ms. Gallagher.

The largest portion of Seaford’s current operating expense funding is the local portion of salaries.

“That is approximately 76 percent of our local budget,” said Ms. Gallagher. “But we also use that funding for instructional materials, supplies, technology, safety security, 100 percent of our school resource officer, sports/athletics, operations, utilities and local share of transportation.”

“It has been 14 years since the last operating cost went through. Before that, it was 21 years,” Dr. Miklus said. “So obviously costs have risen.”

With referendum passage, the “average” residential assessment will increase $7.99 monthly, or $95.82 annually.

Dr. Miklus pointed out that 10, 15 years ago, maybe one or two districts went out to referendum. In today’s world, many districts are going out for referendums.

“It is important for us to stay competitive, make sure that our technology is up to speed. We want to stay in our current cycle for replacing technology,” Dr. Miklus said. “The same thing with safety and security. It is important for us that our schools are safe, because obviously that is a headline nationally.”

Additionally, like other public school districts, Seaford has had to relinquish state funding in DOE’s giveback. For Seaford, the annual amount is $650,745.07, Ms. Gallagher said.

Seaford’s last major capital referendum passage was in May 2011 when voters by a slim margin approved a $36.5 million referendum for renovation and expansion of Seaford Senior High School — a project designed to “reinvent” the high school and allow grade reconfiguration district-wide to address elementary-level overcrowding.

The local bond issue for that 2011 referendum was $9,113,900 – or 25 percent of the $36,455,600 project.

On the current expense side, in February 2014 Seaford voters overwhelmingly rejected a $1.5 million operating budget referendum sought to help make up for an anticipated $1.2 million budget shortfall with the end of Race to the Top funding.

If you vote

Voting on March 4 is from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Seaford High School on N. Market St.

Eligible voters must be 18 years of age or older and have proof of address in the Seaford School geographic boundaries, which includes Blades. Residents do not need to be registered to vote.

“The Department of Elections will only be checking to make sure someone is 18 years of age and resident of the Seaford School District,” Ms. Gallagher said. “We have been trying to tell our community — if you are a renter, yes, you are entitled to vote.”

The average assessed value for Seaford is $13,324.46, according to the district.

Seaford’s current tax rate ranks among the lowest among Sussex County districts. Seaford, currently at $3.934 per $100 of assessed value, is sandwiched between Cape Henlopen ($3.9921 prior to its spring referendum) and Indian River, which will remain the lowest following the Feb. 13 referendum passage. IRSD’s tax rate will be somewhere between $3.255 and $3.315, depending on the bond rate.

More information

To better inform the community, the Seaford School District website – www.seafordbluejays.org – has more information on the referendum, well as a tax projection calculator.

“A lot of people are unclear about whether or not they can afford the tax increase,” said Ms. Gallagher. “We have been encouraging people to please go look at our tax projection calculator on our website so they can make an informed choice about whether or not they can afford this.”

“That’s important,” Dr. Miklus said. “We’ve done a lot of public events and at the end of the day people want to know what it is going to cost them.”