Voters in Woodbridge School District reject tax hike

BRIDGEVILLE — Voters in the Woodbridge School District Tuesday rejected a referendum calling for a current expense tax hike that would have generated nearly $1 million in additional operating costs.

By an unofficial margin of 754-641, voters defeated the request for an additional $950,000 in current expense funding that was earmarked to cover increased operating costs including transportation costs; additional utility costs incurred in going from three to four school buildings; security enhancements of schools; an increase in salary expense; and to be competitive in hiring and retaining teachers.

“I was hopeful,” said Woodbridge School District Superintendent Heath Chasanov. “But any time you are dealing with the only time people vote on what they pay in tax, you never know how it’s going to go.”

Mr. Chasanov said the district and board of education will assess its options. One option could be to come back to the voters again with a second referendum with the same current expense request.

“That will be on the table. Cuts will be on the table. There is a lot of options at this point. None are good,” said Mr. Chasanov. “We’re going to have to regroup and figure out what our options are and then make that decision. There was not a decision made by the board for a Plan B. At this point we have to sit down and figure out how we want to proceed. We’ll have to have some tough conversations at this point.”

This past year the district needed to dip into reserves for $400,000, Mr. Chasanov said.

“Regardless of the fact that it didn’t pass, it was good exercise in trying to teach people how the system works,” Mr. Chasanov said. “But we just didn’t do a good enough job explaining the need.

“But I really do appreciate the support that we got from the community,” Mr. Chasanov said.

For residents in Sussex County the “average” annual increase would have been just under $70 annually. For Kent County residents, the increase would have been about $84.

The district did not request a current expense increase with the passage of the 2011 major capital referendum that paved the way for the new Woodbridge High School, which opened in August 2014. That increased the number of schools to four, with Woodbridge High School joining Woodbridge Middle School (former high school facility), Phillis Wheatley Elementary and Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center.

The last current expense referendum held in the Woodbridge district was in 2006.

Voting was held 13 hours Tuesday at Woodbridge Middle School in Bridgeville and the Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center in Greenwood.

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