Seaford Referendum to Raise Taxes Creating Debate - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Seaford Referendum to Raise Taxes Creating Debate

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SEAFORD, Del.- In Seaford, taxes might be on the rise if a referendum passes in late February.

On Feb. 27, a city-wide vote will decide whether there will be an increase in taxes by 58 cents per $100 of assessed property value. 

The increase is being called for as a replacement to the $3.4 Million that was brought in from the federal "Race To the Top" program, when it expires. The program will come to an end on July 1, 2014.

School officials estimate that the tax increase would bring in approximately $1.5 million to the schools, to cover some of the main aspects of the program. 

This referendum has received some vocal oppositions from residents with large property values. In particular, many poultry farmers have mobilized against the bill, saying property tax increases disproportionately affect them. 

Stephanie Smith, the Director of Human Resources and Public Information for the Seaford School District said the tax increases are essential for the sake of the children. 

"We don't generate the moneys that perhaps the Eastern side of the county," she said. 

And as a result, she said the school district will be impacted more negatively by the end of the federal program than some other districts such as Cape Henlopen and Indian River. She said the additional $1.5 million will chip away at this great need.

"We're still gonna have to make tough decisions," she said. "Actually really tough decisions. But we're hoping that with this additional money, some of the decisions can be made in less drastic ways." 

A couple miles away from the school district office, Brooks Snyder owns a poultry farm with three chicken houses. He said he will be casting a decisive no-vote against the tax increases. He said this is because he believes chicken farmers are hit harder then others. 

Snyder already pays $2,900 per year in local school taxes, and he said the increases would likely mean another increase of $200 to $300. 

"I'm all for the kids getting a good education and having a nice building," he said. "But when they put the school tax up, it never goes down."

And Snyder said this issue is bigger than just Seaford. He said he has heard concerns from poultry farmers from around the region, who are calling for a new formula to base taxes off of. 

In Laurel, four local poultry farmers gather at Donald Steen's home. He said the large land necessities of the business put poultry farmers like him in a situation where they get hit by disproportionately high taxes. 

"They're hurting us bad," he said referring to the high school taxes. "Because all of these square footage on these chicken farms. That's what we're taxed on and it's killing us."

Educators, administrators, and students though from the Seaford School District have argued that the tax increases are an unfortunate necessity. The district has been passing out fliers all week for community forums set for Feb. 4 and Feb. 20. 

The referendum will be on Feb. 27. 

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