Seaford referendum aim is to expand, fix schools

By Ronald MacArthur

The Seaford Board of Education voted at its Feb. 28 meeting to move forward with plans to hold a two-phase $8.71 million major capital referendum on Tuesday, April 12. The money would be used to expand the Blades Elementary School because of increased enrollment and to complete 10 projects in the district’s other schools. With both phases funded, the average taxpayer in the district will see a tax increase of $16.85 ($2.35 the first year and $14.50 the second year). That is based on a $15,423 single family home assessment. The board had previously approved the projects and the Department of Education has provided the district with a certificate of necessity. “So the next step is a referendum to ask the board to pass a bond issue,” said Lynn Lester, the district’s finance director. Then without a vote, the board decided to go against the recommendation of its Community Education Funding Coalition and not hold a proposed current expense referendum. The committee had voted 5-3 to support the idea of proceeding with the current expense referendum. It would have been used to raise $510,000 over a three-year period. Superintendent Dr. Russell C. Knorr suggested that the board revisit the idea of a current expense referendum in the summer following the district’s budget session. The first phase of the major capital referendum in fiscal year 2006 would raise $1.31 million for an expansion project at Blades Elementary School. The project includes the addition of a new gym, renovation of the old gym into two new classrooms, the addition of two new classrooms, the addition of a storage closest, expansion of the playground. The state will cover 76 percent of the cost ($995,600) with the district picking up 24 percent ($314,000). “This is to deal with the fact that we are busting at the seams,” Lester told the board. “We are using a portable unit until the time we make the needed renovations.” The second phase in fiscal year 2007 would raise $7.4 million to cover the cost of 10 projects in the district: installation of sprinkler systems in all schools ($1.3 million); renovation and completion of bathrooms at Central, Fred Douglass, West Seaford and the high school ($1.4 million); replacement of floor tiles at Central, West Seaford and the high school ($800,000); improvement of insulation at all schools ($750,000); expansion and renovation of the gym and locker rooms at the middle school ($1.2 million); expansion and renovation of the kitchens at West Seaford and the middle school ($750,000); Installation of dehumidifiers at all schools ($350,000); reseam and replacement of roofs at Central, Fred Douglass and West Seaford ($250,000); upgrade of the elementary school playgrounds ($100,000); replacement of the chiller at the high school ($500,000). The state will provide 76 percent of the cost ($5.624 million) with the district providing 24 percent ($1.776 million). Lester said that the middle school locker room and gym project was cut from a previous project. “Installing the dehumidifiers will be the answer to many of our problems with temperature and humidity in some classrooms if not all of them,” Lester said.
She added that the roofing project’s cost is less than anticipated. “We are looking at reseaming some roofs. Originally we were looking at replacement which was a significant cost and now it’s much less,” she said. Under the first phase, an average taxpayer in the district will have an increase of $2.35 a year. In the second phase, taxes will increase $14.50 a year for a total increase of $16.85. On the subject of the current expense referendum, the superintendent and board members agreed that the timing was not right. “It concerns me that we have a 5-3 vote within the coalition,” board member Dave Speicher said. “And I think they have an excellent read on the community.” “And they understand where we are and where we are going,” board member James Van Vleck added. “I think we should revisit this issue in the summer and see what we want to do. I recommend to the board not to hold a current expense referendum at this time,” Knorr said. The Community Education Funding Coalition had recommended that the board proceed with the current expense referendum “with reservations,” according to Lester. Even though there is a need for funds in the district, several coalition members also had concerns about the timing, Lester said.

MAKE-UP DAYS - According to Superintendent Knorr, district students and teachers have two days to make up because of bad weather this winter. He said that 30 hours are built into the schedule each year. “We’ve already used those hours up and are looking at making up two days, and we aren’t into the fog season yet,” he told the board.

REPORT - Highlights in the Superintendent’s Report included the following:
Student accomplishments - High school student Krystal Webber is a finalist for the WBOC Student Scholarship Program. High school students Jessica Hearn and Caitlin Wasson were selected to participate in the All-State Women’s Choir Concert. Middle school students Alexis Carey and Katie Hickey participated in the junior All State Chorus Festival. Molly Cain, a sixth grader, was the middle school’s geography bee winner. Middle school student Jenna Tice won the southeast district Elks Lodge essay contest. Students at Blades Elementary School collected $900 for tsunami relief with the money being donated to Save The Children. Blades Elementary student Tuyet-Kha Nguyen won first place in the Elks Lodge regional poster contest. The Life Skills program, under the leadership of Carol Lay, has been nominated for a Superstars in Education award. The middle school computer lab will be open for parents from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 7, 14, 21 and April 4, 11, 18 and 25.

UPCOMING MEETINGS - The board will meet: Monday, March 14; Monday, April 11 (workshop); Monday, April 25. All meetings take place at 7 p.m. at the administrative office across from the high school.

News tips wanted
Call us with ideas for news and features. We're always looking for good stories to share with readers. Call Bryant Richardson at 629-9788.