Woodbridge school district voters approve tax hike

BRIDGEVILLE — It was a turnabout Wednesday as a voting majority in the Woodbridge School District approved a current expense tax hike that will take in nearly $1 million in additional operating funds for the district’s four schools.

By a 1,313-to-1,042 margin, the district gained support in its second attempt for the current expense proposal in three months that will provide an additional $950,000 annually in current expense funds.

For Sussex County property owners the average annual tax increase will be almost $70. For district residents in Kent County the increase will now be approximately $84 more a year.

“I am ecstatic,” Woodbridge Superintendent Heath Chasanov said. “It was a group effort. You don’t have enough ink for all the people we need to thank.

“So many people got involved and supported it. It was the community that came together and worked for our kids. It was absolutely wonderful.”
The funding is earmarked to cover increased operating costs including transportation; additional utility costs incurred in going from three to four school buildings; security enhancements of district schools; increase in salary expense due to a growth in enrollment; and the need to continue to be “competitive” in hiring and retaining teachers, according to school officials.

District officials had insisted additional operational funding is needed now that the Woodbridge district operates four schools with the 2014 opening of the new Woodbridge High School.

Local funding for the new high school was approved in a 2011 referendum, which was major capital improvement only and did not include a current expense tax increase request.

Last fiscal year, the Woodbridge district reached into its reserves for about $400,000 to cover operational costs.

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

Wednesday’s outcome followed defeat on March 12 when the same proposal failed by a 754-641 margin.

“For me, the biggest difference was that the community came together,” said Mr. Chasanov. “We lost the first referendum. And they started seeing ‘No’ signs and I think that woke people up, that there were people out there that we’re going to vote against it.

“Then we started seeing ‘No’ signs that were placed on our school property. I think that really woke up our parents. I think that really galvanized our community. It helped us tremendously. They tapped into an emotion.”

Had the second referendum failed, the district would have faced decisions about potential cuts, including staff.
“But we don’t have to worry about that now,” Mr. Chasanov said.

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