Woodbridge gears up for referendum
By Mike McClure
As the June 1 current expense tax referendum draws closer, the Woodbridge School District is preparing for one final push toward passing its first current expense referendum in 15 years. At the Woodbridge School Board meeting on Tuesday, May 21, at Woodbridge Senior High School, Valerie Woodruff, the state’s Secretary of Education, spoke about the impact of the referendum and other related topics. The district also addressed issues that have been brought up in flyers by opponents of the referendum.
“You’re here tonight because you care,” Woodruff told parents and community members in attendance. “If the local community is willing to support the local effort, then the state is willing to kick in money to help the community.”
“You will not lose money (if the referendum fails), you will lose the opportunity to get $379,229 (in state money),” said Woodruff.
The district is asking residents to approve an increase in the current expense tax of around $44.51 per resident. Voting will take place on Saturday, June 1, from noon to 9 p.m. at the Woodbridge Elementary School in Greenwood and Woodbridge High School in Bridgeville. According to superintendent Kevin Carson, the funds would be used for operating expenses such as heating and electricity, extracurricular activities and instructional materials and supplies.
On Tuesday, the board received reports from the five referendum committees, which are made up of parents, teachers, community members and administrators. The public relations committee is printing and distributing flyers and selling pro-referendum sings for $6 a sign.
Members of the “neighborhood generals” committee is going door to door in communities and attending various community meetings to drum up support for the district.
The student involvement committee focused on preparing for the Raider Rally, which took place on Monday, May 27, at the Woodbridge High School football field. The rally included representatives from the sports teams and other extracurricular activities that are scheduled to be cut if the referendum doesn’t pass.
The transportation committee reported that buses will be making stops at 15 areas in the district for people who don’t have transportation to get to the polls. The buses will have pickups every two hours, starting at noon, and will cover three main routes: Greenwood to Farmington, Bridgeville, and the southern portion of the district (bordering the Seaford and Indian River school districts).
There will also be volunteers manning the phones at a dispatch center, and vehicles will be donated to provide individual rides as needed. Residents who need a ride are asked to call 349-1428.
The telephone/poll workers committee will be doing polling from May 20 through June 1. Committee members will be making reminder calls from school office phones on the day of the referendum. A hotline number (349-1428) can be called for more information on the referendum.
During the school board meeting, the committee made it clear that it is only having adults making calls on behalf of the district. Opponents of the referendum have said that the district has been asking students to make calls.
“The community is doing a fine job of working for the students of the school district,” said school board president Paul Breeding.
Breeding also addressed the issue of flyers that are being put on the mailboxes of the district’s residents. He said the flyers mistakenly say that the referendum is for debt services.
“There is no debt services in this referendum. It’s a current expense referendum,” Breeding said. He also called the flyer’s figures incorrect.
Carson distributed the district’s calculations to the audience, including a tax rate comparison for Kent and Sussex counties.
According to the district, while the current expense tax would be higher with a successful referendum (28 cents per $100 higher in Kent and 31 cents per 100 in Sussex), the minor cap, tuition, and debt service taxes would be lower in Kent County than if the referendum fails.
During the public comment session, Betty Warrington asked about the capitation tax, which would be raised from $7.70 to 8.92 if the referendum passes. Warrington asked why the district wasn’t raising that tax even more.
Carson said that while the capitation tax affects both property and owners and non-property owners in the district (unlike the current expense tax which is levied on property owners), the state does not count money raised from the capitation tax toward the local money required to receive state money.
Carson also discussed the district’s financial troubles, which have led to plans to cut the district’s extracurricular activities if the referendum doesn’t pass. According to Carson, the district is currently paying salaries out of local funds because of a shortfall in the budget.
“I’m sorry we’re in this position. No matter what happens on June 1, there’s going to be a group of people that’s disappointed,” Carson said. “We’ve got to get this job done, there’s too much at stake.”
Bridgeville Town Commission president Joe Conaway spoke out in favor of the referendum during last week’s meeting. Conaway said the area’s future is at stake.
“We need to vote for this referendum, and the little bit of money we’re talking about makes me angry,” said Conaway. “We can’t let those people who oppose everything effect the future of you, me, and everyone.”
During the board’s closing remarks board member Coulter Passwaters said the board is not kidding about cutting extracurricular activities and making other cuts if the referendum fails.
Spring Festival is June 1
The Greenwood Mennonite School will hold its 16th annual spring festival Saturday, June 1, on the school grounds.
The day begins with an old-fashioned, all-you-can-eat breakfast, served from 7:30 to 10 a.m. At 9 a.m., the outdoor booths will open, featuring fresh-made foods, handcrafted items, antiques, books, new and used kids items, plants, plus a petting zoo, rides and a quilting demonstration.
Antique tractors will be featured this year, along with an auction.
All proceeds from the festival benefit the 74-year-old Greenwood Mennonite School, the longest-running Mennonite elementary school in the United States. The school is located on Mennonite School Road, between routes 16 and 36, east of Greenwood.