The Smyrna Board of Education will vote on whether or not the district should go to referendum at the board meeting Monday, Dec. 16 at Sunnyside Elementary School.

The school board was presented with a referendum proposal for current expenses and major capital improvements at the Nov. 20 board meeting.

Finance Director Jerry Gallagher provided the board with the details of the referendum. The major capital improvements proposal is for $14.7 million in building upgrades at Smyrna Elementary, Clayton Elementary, John Bassett Moore Intermediate School and the Thomas D. Clayton School building; the state will pay for 67 percent [$9.8 million] of the cost.

The current expense referendum is for $1.5 million to meet the projected everyday expenses such as salaries, utilities, and classroom supplies over the next three years. Gallagher said at the meeting the district will not be able to maintain its existing program offerings and build upon the current success of the district without an increase in local funds; the need correlates with the roughly $1.2 million loss in state funding in recent years.

The referendum includes a proposed property tax increase in 2015 of 24.6 cents per $100 of assessed value for Kent County residents and a 19.59-cent tax increase per $100 of assessed value for New Castle County residents. The proposed increases, if approved by the school board and then district residents in a referendum, would take the Kent County school tax up from $1.4161 per $100 of assessed value to $1.6621. The increase for New Castle County would be from $1.1267 to $1.3226 per $100 of assessed value.

The projected change in taxes for the average property owner in both counties for 2015 would be an increase of $92. The tax rate would increase again in 2016, for a projected change of $112 for property owners in both counties. From then on, the tax rate would decrease slightly.

The Smyrna School District currently has the third lowest total tax rate in the state, Gallagher said. Even if the referendum is approved and taxes go up, the district is expected to have the fourth lowest tax rate in the state.

"This drives home how prudent and how frugal as a district we are," Gallagher said. "Compared to other districts, we do not ask for nearly the same amounts as other districts do."

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