School Referendum Passes at Cape Henlopen - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

School Referendum Passes at Cape Henlopen

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MILTON, De. - There was yet another Sussex County referendum Wednesday for the Cape Henlopen School District. By a vote of 3,597 to 2,410 the people of the district approved the referendum, which will raise $30 million for a new elementary school in Lewes. Officials from the school district said the project is necessary in order to address concerns of overcrowding in the school system. 

Thousands of residents cast their vote between 10:00a.m. and 8:00p.m. at the three locations spread throughout the district. The referendum increased taxes by 27 cents per $100 of assessed value over the next three years, in order to generate $12 million locally. That money will be combined with about $17 million from the state, in order to build the new school. 

Superintendent Bob Fulton said the tax increase was seriously needed. 

"It's not something we'd like to have," he said. "Or something we want. This is something that we really need."

The school said that population has boomed in the district, leading up to the decision to construct the new building. From 1998 to 2014, the enrollment has jumped almost 1,000 students from 4,137 to 5,111. A University of Delaware population study predicted that in 2023 that number will be 5,528. By 2033, they predict enrollment to reach 6,049 students.

Of the total cost of about $29 million, just under $3 million is dedicated to buying the land for the new elementary school. The largest line item is about $22 million, dedicated to the actual construction of that building. There is also an allotted $4.28 million dedicated to building 12 new classrooms, half at Beacon Middle School and half at Mariner Middle School.

As with all of the other recent referenda in the county, many voters in this school district received robo-calls from a political action committee, telling them to vote "no" on the referendum. In that message, the group, called First State Liberty said that the Cape Henlopen School District was wasting money, and that voters should reject their request for tax increases. 

First State Liberty is the same group that made robo-calls to Seaford voters for their referendum on February 27 and to Milford voters on March 25. Those referendas were both rejected. Many such as Richard Papp said they were concerned with the group. He said the PAC, which raises money from across the state, should not interfere with what he said is a local issue. 

"It's a special interest group that's outside of the Cape Henlopen School District," he said. "(They should) bug off." 

Others though were far more receptive of the group. Terry August of Milton said any group that fights for lower taxes should be welcome to campaign. 

"I feel like we want to keep them low," he said of taxes. "So when we get the opportunity to say - 'let's do our part to keep them low.' That's what I want."

Some residents though like former teacher Ellen Todd said the robo-calls were destructive. She said the money was greatly needed, and these calls would just push people away from supporting the school. 

"I think we also have to think about the schools," she said. "Especially public schools. Keeping them as good as they can be."

The new school would be located on Route 24, near Mulberry Knoll Road, across the street from the Beacon Middle School. 

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