Proposed bond issue may provide elbow room
Delaware board could approve issue this week for May ballot
The Delaware City School District is getting closer to making a decision on how to handle increased enrollment and overcrowding in its school buildings.
During the school board's Nov. 19 work session, Superintendent Paul Craft asked board members to consider a 10-year bond issue.
"Since we have gone through so many economic challenges, it has never been the right time to ask taxpayers for more money -- but we are up against a wall," Craft said.
Craft said a bond issue would be the most cost-effective solution to the problem and would require a little less than 2 additional mills. Craft suggested the issue be added to the May 2013 ballot, which would require the board to make a decision this month in order to have the resolution ready by the board of elections' deadline.
Craft said the school board potentially could approve the measure at its meeting Monday, Dec. 3, provided members pull together all the financial information before then.
Craft estimated the bond issue would cost taxpayers around $10 a month per $100,000 in property value.
"We are always reluctant to ask taxpayers for more money, but I think we have a compelling case," he said.
The plan involves several building additions and renovations to current buildings, as opposed to building entirely new structures.
Elementary schools would house students in grades K-5; Dempsey Middle School would house students in grades 6-8; Hayes would continue as the high school; and Willis Intermediate School would become a district administration center, alternative education center and virtual learning center, and would be available for use by community organizations.
Craft said enrollment projections show the district's enrollment will increase by 2 percent over the next several years.
However, he said even if the district doesn't have a single new child enroll in the schools, Hayes High School's enrollment still will increase by 500 students over the next six years.
"These aren't projections," he said. "These are actual boys and girls who are enrolled in the schools right now."
This year, there were 200 additional students added to the schools, while only three new teachers were hired, he said.
"That's a ratio of 66 to 1," Craft said. "We are obviously very stretched at the operational level."
Craft said he believes the district is attractive to families and that families want their children to enroll in the schools.
"We are a victim of our success," he said. "We are continuing to grow and we have filled every nook and cranny that we can."
If a bond issue were to pass, the project would be completed in phases beginning in 2013 and fully completed by 2016-17, if all goes as planned.
Taxpayers last approved a bond issue in 1998, with the funding used to build Dempsey Middle School. Voters rejected a proposed bond issue in 2004.
Craft said if the proposed bond issue does not pass, the schools will have to continue to "put Band-aids on" and bring in more trailer-based classrooms.
"Quite frankly, I have no clue how we would handle Dempsey or the high school," he said. "I'm sure the hundreds of students would overwhelm the school grounds."