Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is included in the referendum?

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    This Referendum proposes a current expense tax increase and a phased increase in the debt service tax rate over a period of three years. Specifically, we are suggesting a $0.335 tax increase for current expenses and a gradual $0.214 tax increase for debt services. This will amount to a cumulative rate increase of $0.549 per $100 of assessed value of the home, fully implemented over the three-year period. The incremental increase would enable the District to support the increased operational costs necessary to ensure adequate resources are available to manage the rising expenses in utilities, personnel, maintenance costs, transportation, instructional materials and supplies, technology, and special education services to meet the needs of our growing community and expanding student population. In addition, the increase in debt service tax will allow us to proceed with the purchase of land for future expansion. This expansion includes the relocation and construction of a district office to make room for Cape Henlopen High School, a natatorium, bus maintenance facility, and district operations.

     

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  • Why does the District need more money?

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    The proposed operating tax of 33.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, effective July 1, 2024, is essential to meet the increasing operational expenses of the district. These funds will address the rising costs in utilities, personnel, maintenance, transportation, instructional materials, technology, and special education services, necessitated by the district's significant growth.

    Over the past decade, the district has grown by more than 1,512 students and 167 staff members, particularly impacting Cape Henlopen High School, where enrollment now exceeds 2,000 students. This growth underscores the urgent need for additional classroom space, a need that was not approved by the state in our certificate of necessity requests in 2023. We plan to resubmit for a certificate in 2024, emphasizing the necessity for expansion at Cape High School.

    The debt service tax, through the issuance of bonds, is crucial for funding major capital projects. The district is asking for an increase of 5.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation effective July 1, 2025, and an additional increase of 16.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation effective July 1, 2026, for a total of 21.4 cents at its maximum. This would allow for the purchase of land for the relocation of the district office, the construction of a natatorium, and a bus maintenance facility. The relocation of the district office is particularly critical as future expansion of the high school can not take place until the district office is relocated. These projects not only enhance operational efficiency and community accessibility with modernized facilities but they are also a strategic move to make room for the much-needed additional classroom space at Cape Henlopen High School. This comprehensive plan reflects our commitment to addressing the growing demands of our student population and community.

     

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  • What is the proposed new tax rate?

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    The proposed increase in operating tax is 33.5 cents per $100 of assessed value beginning July 1, 2024. For the debt service, no increase will take place until July 1, 2025, and would be an increase of 5.3 cents per $100 of assessed value with an additional 16.2 cents per $100 of assessed value beginning July 1, 2026. This represents a total debt service tax increase of 21.4 cents per $100 of assessed value over 3 years.

    For a more accurate calculation of what that means for you individually check out the tax calculator

     

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  • How will the upcoming county-wide reassessment impact the increase from this referendum?

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    Sussex County is performing a property reassessment that will begin to impact the annual tax bill issued in August of 2025 and due September 30, 2025. 

    The Cape Henlopen School District's approach to communing about the Sussex County property tax reassessment and how it relates to the March 26, 2024, referendum is centered on the uncertainty surrounding the reassessments individual outcomes and the primary aim of the reassessment process itself.

    Property tax reassessment is a process aimed at updating property values to reflect current market conditions more accurately. The purpose is not to generate additional revenue for the school district.  It is done to ensure that property values are in line with the existing real estate market, thereby making the taxation process fairer and more equitable. As market conditions change over time, reassessments are necessary to align tax liabilities with current property values, ensuring that property owners are paying taxes that accurately reflect their property's worth.

    For the Cape Henlopen School District, the primary reason for not incorporating the potential outcomes of the reassessment into referendum discussion is due to the uncertainty of how the reassessment impacts individual taxpayers. Given that the reassessment process aims to adjust property values based on market conditions, the specific impact on individual properties cannot be precisely predicted until the reassessment is complete. Some homeowners will see increases due to how much their property’s value has gained over time, while many other homeowners will see lower tax bills as their property values have not gained as significantly as other.  There will also be a number of homeowners little change to their taxes as their property values have neither proportionally increased or decreased in comparison to the other properties in the district.  Factors such as changes in property conditions, neighborhood developments, and overall market trends can all influence the new assessed values, making it challenging to forecast the exact tax implications for each property owner beforehand.

    Most importantly, the reassessment process is designed to ensure that school districts will receive no more tax revenue than they would have received had the reassessment not taken place.  When setting the rate, the Code allows for a one-time adjustment to the rate not to exceed 10% of the prior year’s revenues.  Once the reassessment is complete, and all appeals have been addressed by the County, the district will recalibrate the rate to reflect a rate that ensures that the total tax revenue received is not more than it would have received had the reassessment not taken place.

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  • What happens if this referendum isn't passed?

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    If the operating and debt service referendum does not pass, the district will face significant challenges in meeting the growing needs of our student population and maintaining the quality of our educational services. Without the operating tax, the district will struggle to cover the rising operational costs. This shortfall could lead to reductions in essential services including utilities, personnel, maintenance, transportation, and the provision of instructional materials, technology, and special education services. Such cutbacks would directly impact the quality of education and support we can offer to our students.

    The failure of the debt service referendum will halt our planned capital projects. This means the district will not be able to proceed with the purchase of land for new facilities, the relocation of the district office, the construction of a natatorium, or a bus maintenance facility. Most critically, the inability to relocate the district office will impede our plans to expand classroom space at Cape Henlopen High School, where the student body has significantly outgrown the current facilities. The lack of expansion would exacerbate overcrowding and potentially hinder the educational experience of our students. In summary, the failure of these referendums would significantly limit our ability to grow and improve in line with the needs of our expanding student population and community.

     

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  • When was the last referendum and how is this one different from that?

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    The last referendum the District held was in 2018 and addressed major capital projects needed to accommodate our growth and enrollment numbers. We had planned to hold an operating expense referendum on March 31, 2020, but subsequently canceled it due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The 2020 referendum, had it taken place, would have asked the community for a 25-cent tax increase, which on average would have cost roughly $70 per home per year. Because that was 4 years ago, and costs have changed, we are asking this time for a 33.5 cent increase for the operating expense portion, which would average about $93 per home per year, and a 21.4 cent increase for the debt service tax which would be roughly $59 per home per year.

     

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  • What is the timeline? When will I see an increase and then a decrease if the referendum is passed?

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    The operating expense tax increase will be implemented one time July 1, 2024 (fiscal year 2025). The debt service increase will be implemented in increments, with the first increase beginning July 1, 2025, (fiscal year 2026), and again July 1, 2026 in (fiscal year 2027). After the tax increase peaks in 2027, it will begin to go down in 2028 and over the next 7 years as the debt service ceiling for the project is projected to decrease for the taxpayers. As bonds from projects continue to be paid off, taxes will continue to decrease. 

     

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  • How will increasing my taxes help the students?

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    The proposed tax increases will significantly benefit the students in several key ways, aligned with the planned use of the funds raised.

    Improved Operational Efficiency and Resources (Operating Tax Increase): The levy of 33.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, is designated for current operating expenses. This increase will ensure that the district has adequate resources to manage rising costs in critical areas such as utilities, personnel, maintenance, transportation, instructional materials and supplies, technology, and special education services. For the students, this means better-maintained facilities, up-to-date instructional materials, and access to advanced technology, contributing to an enhanced learning environment. Additionally, it ensures that the special education needs are adequately met, providing a more inclusive and supportive educational setting.

    Capital Projects (Debt Service Tax Increase for Bond Issuance): The funds raised from the bond issuance, amounting to $79,096,895, will be directed towards several major projects that will directly and indirectly benefit the students:

    • Purchase of Land for Future Educational Campus: This will allow for the expansion of educational facilities, providing more space and potentially reducing overcrowding. It means your student will have a more comfortable learning environment in the future.

    • Relocation of District Office: By relocating the district office to a new facility, more space will become available at existing schools. This could directly contribute to creating additional classroom space, reducing class sizes, and improving the overall educational experience for your student. 

    • Construction of a Natatorium: This new swimming facility will enhance athletic and recreational opportunities for your student, contributing to their physical well-being and offering them state-of-the-art facilities for extracurricular activities.

    • New Bus Maintenance Facility: Improved transportation services, resulting from a new maintenance facility, will ensure safer, more reliable, and efficient transportation for your student, making their commute to and from school better.

    In summary, the tax increases will facilitate both the maintenance and expansion of the district's capabilities, directly translating to a better educational environment for your student. These improvements aim to enhance the quality of education, provide additional facilities and resources, and ensure a safer and more efficient school experience.

     

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  • How will this benefit the whole community even if we don't have school-age children/grandchildren?

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    Supporting a school district referendum, even if you don't have children attending the schools, is beneficial for several key reasons:

    • Community Enhancement: Quality schools are a cornerstone of a strong community. They help in maintaining or increasing property values, attracting families and businesses, and fostering a sense of community pride and cohesion.

    • Educational Investment: By supporting a referendum that enhances the quality of education, you contribute to developing a well-educated workforce, which is crucial for the economic health and innovation capacity of your community and the country.

    • Social Benefits: Good schools contribute to lower crime rates and improved public safety. Educated individuals are more likely to engage in civic activities, leading to stronger and more vibrant communities.  

    • Long-Term Economic Benefits: Investing in education has a high return on investment. Quality education systems attract businesses looking for skilled labor, thus boosting the local economy and potentially leading to job creation and increased economic activity in your area.

    • Moral and Ethical Responsibility: Supporting education is often seen as a moral and ethical responsibility to the younger generation. It's about ensuring that all children, regardless of their background, have access to quality education, which is a key factor in determining their future success and well-being.

    Future Generations: Even if you don't have children in the schools now, supporting the education system contributes to the betterment of future generations, including potential future members of your own family.

    • Enhanced Public Services and Amenities: Often, school district projects include facilities that can be utilized by the entire community, such as sports facilities, libraries, and meeting spaces. These amenities enhance the overall quality of life in the area.

    In summary, supporting a school district referendum is an investment in the future of your community, with widespread benefits that go beyond the immediate impact on the students. It's about contributing to a thriving, safe, and prosperous community where everyone, regardless of whether they have school-aged children, benefits.

     

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  • How will this tax increase affect the District long-term?

    Posted by:

    The proposed tax increase is expected to have a significant and positive long-term impact on the district, primarily due to the direct correlation between our debt service and operations tax needs and the growth in our community and the number of students attending our schools. Historically, we plan for operations tax increases to last between 3 and 5 years, and it's noteworthy that our last increase sustained us for nearly 8 years. This demonstrates our commitment to efficient financial planning and utilization of resources.

    Long-term, these funds will enable us to continuously adapt to and accommodate the evolving needs of our growing student population and the broader community. As our district expands, so do the demands for more facilities, better infrastructure, upgraded technology, and enhanced educational services. The tax increase will provide the necessary financial support to meet these demands, ensuring that we can maintain and improve the quality of education and services we offer.

    Moreover, we are committed to long-term planning that is both strategic and transparent. Understanding that our community is an integral part of this process, we pledge to keep our stakeholders regularly informed about future needs, financial plans, and how these contribute to the district’s growth and development. This ongoing communication ensures that the community remains aware of how their contributions are being used and the positive outcomes they are facilitating.

    In summary, the tax increase is a crucial step in ensuring that we can continue to provide a high-quality education and meet the growing needs of our students and community. It reflects our ongoing commitment to being proactive, responsible, and transparent in our financial and operational planning, with the ultimate goal of sustaining the district's success well into the future.

     

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  • When is the referendum vote? Where/who can vote? Can I vote absentee?

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    The Referendum will take place on March 26, 2024. Polling locations will be Cape Henlopen High School, Mariner Middle School, and Rehoboth Elementary School from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. All citizens in the State of Delaware who reside in the Cape Henlopen School District and who are 18 years of age or older (by federal law) are eligible to vote in this election. Absentee voting will be provided through the Department of Elections. Individuals eligible to vote by absentee ballot should contact the Department of Elections for Sussex County at (302) 856-5367. 

     

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  • Is there tax relief for senior citizens?

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    Yes! Information can be found by calling (302) 855-7824 or by visiting the website:

    https://finance.delaware.gov/senior-relief/

     

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  • How can I learn more about the referendum?

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    You can learn more about the referendum by attending one of our scheduled community meetings. These meetings are open to the public and will be held both in the Milton and Lewes areas on the following dates. All meetings will be held from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM

    • Love Creek Elementary - February 27, 2024, in the Media Center

    • Milton Elementary - March 11, 2024, in the Auditorium

    • Lewes Elementary - March 18, 2024, in the Auditorium

     

    To download a copy of the FAQ, please click here.

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