60 percent of Woodbridge voters say ‘yes’
By Mike McClure
Residents of the Woodbridge School District approved the first raise in current expense tax in 15 years by a vote of 1,802 to 1,202 in a referendum on Saturday, June 1. With the district’s extracurricular activities at stake, a record 3,004 people came out to cast their votes in Greenwood and Bridgeville.
Last year the district fell short of passing the current expense referendum by 40 votes. Earlier this year (March 26) the deficit was even greater (194 votes).
On Saturday, the referendum passed on all four machines at Woodbridge Elementary School in Greenwood and Woodbridge High School in Bridgeville.
If the referendum hadn’t passed, the Woodbridge School Board planned to vote on a recommendation by superintendent Kevin Carson to eliminate all extracurricular activities that are not self supporting, such as sports.
“We’re happy to see a big turnout like that and to come out ahead is a good thing,” said Carson. “The real winners were the 1,900 kids.”
Voters approved an increase in the current expense, which will account for a yearly increase of around $44.51 per residential property owner. The increase will account for a little over $300,000 in local money, and will allow the district to collect around $380,000 in state funds. The district’s capitation taxes will also be increased from $7.70 to $8.92 per resident.
The district will use the funds to overcome a shortfall in the 2003 budget. According to the district’s administration, the money will be used for instructional materials, operational expenses such as heating and electric, and to keep the district’s extracurricular activities in place.
Opponents of the referendum said administrators exaggerated the district’s financial situation. A group of people camped out at Woodbridge Elementary with signs telling voters to vote no.
Daniel Kramer, who had been a vocal opponent of the referendum, refused to comment on Saturday.Other residents who voted against the referendum said they simply couldn’t afford to pay more taxes.
“There’s no way that we can afford a tax raise,” said Karyn Melson. “Yes, the school needs the money, but if they really needed the money that bad, they’d find a way to collect the (capitation) money.”
William Clendaniel of Greenwood said he voted in favor of the referendum despite the fact that his children have long since grown and are no longer in school.
“These children today are facing a lot of responsibility,” Clendaniel said. “People had to work for my children, there’s no reason I can’t work for them.”
“Somebody paid for their children’s education. We’re not asking them to pay it back, we’re asking them to pay it forward,” said Frank Knotts of Bridgeville, who worked on the referendum public relation committee and was one of the pro-referendum people who stood outside Woodbridge Elementary School.
According to Carson, the state and local money will be used to help reinstitute sports in the middle school as well as keep the high school sports and other extracurricular activities that were in jeopardy if the referendum didn’t pass. The money will also be used for instructional supplies, operating expenses, and staffing for the new middle school, which is slated to open at the Early Education Childhood Center site in Bridgeville in 2004.
In addition to cutting extracurricular activities, Carson had also recommended a reduction in the number of teachers in the district, and a 15 percent cut in supplies. While the decision to rif (reduction in force) teachers was based on a projected loss in students because of the proposed cuts, the Woodbridge School Board is expected to make personnel decisions about teachers during its June meeting.
Carson pointed to the community’s involvement in the June 1 referendum as a major factor in the district’s ability to pass its first current expense referendum in 15 years. Around 140 people were involved with the referendum committee.
“The awareness in the community was high; there was so much at stake,” Carson said. “We had a real cross section of the community that came and participated this time.”
For Melson, who lives with her husband near the border between the Woodbridge and Seaford school districts, the decision to vote against the referendum was economic. In addition to saying that she and her husband could not afford a raise in taxes, Melson also said that many residents (including her) were not being charged a capitation tax, which is supposed to be levied on all residents of the school district.
“They’re asking to raise our taxes before they’re collecting the taxes that are owed them,” said Melson. “Capitation tax is supposed to be a shared tax that everyone pays.”
According to Carson, who would not comment on the collection of the capitation tax, Sussex County is responsible for the collection of the tax and making sure the rules are current. The state does not count capitation tax money toward the local money needed for matching state funds.
Baltimore Colt Star visits Bridgeville.
Lenny Moore, NFL football Hall of Famer, visited the Sussex County Opportunities Program in Education (SCOPE) school in Bridgeville recently. Moore, #24, played for the Baltimore Colts from 1957 through 1967, rushing for over 12,000 yards.
He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1975. Since 1984, he has worked for the State of Maryland’s Department of Juvenile Justice.
Moore was presented with a certificate of appreciation by Tony Windsor Prevention Specialist for Boys & Girls Club of Delaware, and Barry Connors, coordinator of the SCOPE school. Moore’s visit to the SCOPE school was sponsored by Boys & Girls Club of Delaware and the Delaware Criminal Justice Council.