Woodbridge sets second referendum on proposed tax hike

BRIDGEVILLE — For the second time this year, Woodbridge School District is seeking referendum support for a current expense tax hike that would take in nearly $1 million for additional operating costs for its four schools

The follow-up referendum will be held Wednesday, May 29.

Voters on March 12 — by a 754-641 margin — rejected the current expense request for an additional $950,000 in current expense funding.

“We have to do a better job of informing people,” said Woodbridge Superintendent Heath Chasanov. “I had a lot of people come up to me afterwards and said they really thought it was going to pass.

Heath Chasanov

“I think there might have been a level of complacency. I’m just going to make sure folks understand that this is real.”

That funding was 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.

The May 29 referendum is the exact request for the same amount. “It’s absolutely the same,” said Mr. Chasanov.

That date was set at a special April 2 meeting of the Woodbridge board of education.

For property owners in Sussex County the “average” tax annual increase would be just under $70 annually. For district residents in Kent County, the increase would be about $84.

Following the referendum defeat in March, the district addressed options, which included potential cuts, including staff, as well as coming back with a second referendum pitch.

Woodbridge School District Superintendent Heath Chasanov said additional operational funding is needed desperately, noting that since 2014 Woodbridge has had four schools with the opening of the new Woodbridge High School.

This past year, the district dipped into its reserves for about $400,000 to cover operational costs.

“The big difference is … that we didn’t want to run what we call a ‘threat referendum’ last time. And this time it’s very real,” said Mr. Chasanov.

“And so, if it doesn’t pass, we’re going to have to leave 17 to 20 positions unoccupied. And then we most likely are going to have to not sign our school resource officer contracts for next year, which will affect three schools.”

The district contracts with Bridgeville Police Department, which serves Woodbridge Middle School and Phillis Wheatley Elementary, and Delaware State Police for a fulltime school resource officer at Woodbridge High School.

“All of this is needed but you have got to be able to balance the budget. That’s what we have to do,” said Mr. Chasanov.

The school district did not request a current expense increase in 2011 with the passage of the major capital referendum for the new Woodbridge High School, which opened in August 2014.

That gave the district four schools: Woodbridge High School; 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.

Polls for the May 29 referendum will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voting is at Woodbridge Middle School in Bridgeville and Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center in Greenwood.

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