School district officials said no tax hike is needed to pay for the new roof and HVAC system because bonds from previous construction projects are being paid off. Voting will be at Smyrna Middle School, Smyrna Elementary (not North Smyrna) and the Kenton Ruritan Club.

The Smyrna School District is asking residents to approve a referendum Saturday, Feb. 22 to pay for renovations to the mechanical systems and roof at North Smyrna Elementary.

The renovations to the mechanical systems are mostly for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, said district business manager Jerry Gallagher.

Gallagher and superintendent Patrik Williams led a community meeting about the referendum Jan. 23 at North Smyrna Elementary.

No tax hike needed

The district is asking voters to approve bonds of $667,300 which is 23% of the total cost of $2,904,400, said Jerry Gallagher, district business manager. The rest of the project will be paid by state funds.

School district property taxes would not increase if the referendum is approved because bonds for previous construction projects are being paid off, Gallagher said.

The district includes parts of New Castle and Kent counties.

In New Castle County, on a home with a market value of $200,000, the school district property tax is projected to stay the same in the first year, then be lower by $11 in the second year, lower by $7.42 in the third year, lower by $7.38 in the fourth year and then unchanged in the fifth year. Projections are for decreases in years six to 12 and no change in years 13 to 20.

In Kent County, on a home with a market value of $200,000, the school district property tax is projected to stay the same in the first year, then be lower by $11 in the second year, lower by $7.40 in the third year, lower by $7.41 in the fourth year and then unchanged in the fifth year. Projections are for decreases in years six to 12 and no change in years 13 to 20.

If the referendum fails, taxes would go down even more because no new bonds would be issued, and the bonds from previous projects are being paid off.

The projections don’t include any future referendum plans that may be proposed.

Timeline

The Smyrna Board of Education approved the plan for the referendum at the Dec. 18 board meeting and then held a workshop about the plan at the Jan. 15 board meeting before the community meeting Jan. 23.

If voters approve the referendum, the renovations are scheduled for the summer of 2021 with no disruption to classes planned, Gallagher said.

Request to build school denied

The district also requested a certificate of necessity from the Department of Education for funds for a new intermediate school, additions at North Smyrna Elementary and Clayton Intermediate and renovations at other schools, but those requests were denied.

Gallagher said each year the Department of Education has to prioritize requests, assess the greatest needs and submit recommendations for funding to the state legislature’s Bond Bill Committee.

“Most projects were denied and some districts didn’t receive anything they asked for, so we’re appreciative of what we received,” said Gallagher.

Two major projects in other districts that were approved by the state include a new elementary school and a new early childhood center in the Appoquinimink School District in the Middletown area, and a new Sussex Central High School in the Indian River School District. The projects depend on district residents voting for a referendum, and Appoquinimink district residents did that on the first try. In the Indian River district, two referendum votes for the new high school failed, before voters approved the plan in another vote Feb. 13.

Gallagher said even if Indian River voters didn’t approve their referendum, there is no “waiting list” for unused funds.

Districts have to submit requests again for the next budget cycle, and then the Department of Education will go through the same process of prioritizing the requests.