asks residents to hike taxes
By Lynn R. Parks
If residents of the Woodbridge School District approve Tuesday's referendum,
their property taxes will increase by 67.5 percent. While superintendent
Dr. Kevin Carson knows that that is a significant increase, he feels
that voters will support it.
"I want people to know that this is a huge increase," said Carson.
"We haven't hidden from that. But we also know that we have to present
the opportunity for voters to have the type of school system this
money will support."
The district is asking residents to approve two tax boosts, both of
which would support the creation of a separate middle school housing
grades five through eight. If approved, about two-thirds of the tax
increase would come from a major capital tax for construction costs.
The construction portion of the increase would also pay for improvements
to current buildings, including technology upgrades, roof replacements,
air conditioning and mechanical improvements.
The remainder of the increase would be from a current expense tax
to pay for staff and materials for the new school.
"We hope that people realize that we really need both portions passed,"
said Carson. "We want them to see the relationship between them and
that both are equally important."
If approved, the tax increase would be phased in over two years. A
person living in a $30,000 home (assessed value, based on 1974 values,
of $4,410) would see a $31.27 increase the first year ($31.28 in Kent
County). The second year, the tax would jump at about the same amount
for a total increase of $62.53 ($62.57 in Kent). On a $60,000 home,
the first-year increase is $62.53 ($62.57 in Kent); total increase
would be $125.07 ($125.14 in Kent). Senior citizen rebates would apply.
Harold Sheets, former board member and current president of the Raider
Committee, said that the committee was charged two years ago with
studying the district's buildings and needs. Last year, as a short-term
solution to crowded conditions at the 900-pupil elementary school
in Greenwood, the committee recommended that modular classrooms be
installed; there are four such classrooms at the elementary school
now and, said Carson, if the referendum does not pass, more will be
This year, the committee, which is made up of about 30 staff members
and district residents, recommended that the district pursue construction
of the new school.
"We are growing incredibly fast," said Carson. "We have gone from
1,600 students in 1997 to 1,830 as of Sept. 9, 1999. And when we came
back from Christmas break, we had 1,900 students." Carson said that
middle-school classrooms have 31 or 32 students.
In addition to alleviating overcrowding, Carson said that a new school
would concentrate middle school students in one building, making instruction
easier. Parents have requested that seventh and eighth graders be
separated from high school students.
A boost in the current expense rate would mean that the district,
whose budget for fiscal year 1999 was $13,940,229, would qualify for
$103,464 in additional state money. The state gives a district its
full amount of equalization funds only if the district's tax rate
meets state standards.
current Woodbridge rate is at about 70 percent of that standard; based
on that, the district received $1.439 million in equalization funding
in 1999. To help make up for that lost money, the district is dependent
on "held harmless" funding, appropriated annually by the state to
districts that are financially vulnerable. "Not only would we get
more money from the state, but it would mean that we were not dependent
on that held harmless money," said Carson.
The district last had a current expense referendum approved in 1987.
A referendum on a tax increase failed in March 1998.
"We have gone 13 years without an increase," said Carson. "That is
the longest period of time in the state."
Many changes have occurred in the district since the 1998 referendum,
which Carson believes will make voters more likely to support Tuesday's
referendum. "We have a new superintendent," he said. "We have a new
high school principal. We have a new middle school principal. We have
a lot of new teachers."
In addition, he said, the middle and high schools are involved in
a new program, "High Schools That Work," designed by the Southern
Regional Education Board. In fact, the middle school received a state
grant as the state's pilot school for the program. Changes at the
two schools will include block scheduling and annual monitoring of
programs to make sure they are working. "There is a direct connection
between this and state standards," said Carson.
"Our attitude is better. Discipline is better," Carson added. "Our
kids are on task. Certainly our successful athletic programs have
been a factor in this." The Raider football team was undefeated in
it regular season this year and participated in the state championship
The 86,000-square foot middle school would accommodate 700 students,
the number enrolled in fifth through eighth grades now, said Carson.
Size of the school is determined by the state. Total construction
cost would be $21.887 million, 75 percent of which would be paid by
the state. The local share would be $5.471 million.
The school would be built on land the district bought 30 years ago,
shortly after the Bridgeville and Greenwood districts consolidated
to form Woodbridge. The 128-acre plot is located between the two towns,
on the corner of Adams Road and Woodbridge Road.
"It really is the perfect place," said Carson. "It is between the
two towns, there is a sewer line running right in front of it. You
can stand there and look at it and you can see a school. You can see
fields, bleachers, buses coming in. You can see it all sitting right
"I believe voters will see the benefits of this new school," said
Raider Committee president Sheets. "And if they look at the benefits,
this referendum will pass."
"This is a very tough thing for people to decide," said Carson. "It
is a question of rewards and of the quality of the school system.
We certainly hope that both sections pass, but if the citizens feel
otherwise, we will continue to do the best possible job we can. But
they can expect to see class sizes increase, facilities stay in the
condition they are in and more and more modular classrooms."