Delaware City School District voters will be asked May 7 to approve a 2-mill bond issue that leaders hope will ease overcrowding in the district's classrooms.
On Monday, Jan. 7, Delaware school board members voted 5-0 in favor of a resolution to file the bond issue with the county board of elections by Jan. 27 in order to place it on the May ballot.
If approved by voters, the bond issue would cost homeowners about $60 more annually per $100,000 in property value. The funds must be put toward district facilities.
For the past three years, the board has been discussing various proposals to handle the growing student population.
Superintendent Paul Craft said the 2-mill bond issue was the least expensive of the 14 plans board members considered. Craft said he believes it will meet the needs of the district while being affordable to taxpayers.
"We have a fiscally conservative community, and we, as fiscal managers, have chosen a plan that was heavily driven by that fact," he said.
Craft said there are many ways to resolve the issue of increased enrollment, including building a brand-new school. However, he said, board members have opted for the bare-minimum plan.
Five of the eight buildings in the district currently are over capacity. Willis Intermediate School and Dempsey Middle School will not be able to handle the new students soon to arrive, Craft said.
"The last time we added any classroom space was in 1998 when we had 3,800 enrolled students," he said. "We now have 5,400 students and are heading for 6,000."
The plan involves several building additions and renovations to current buildings, as opposed to building entirely new structures.
The elementary schools would be updated to 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.
The district will refinance existing bonds in February as part of the plan to keep the bond issue's millage as low as possible.
Craft said he expects the issue to present a tough decision for taxpayers, but the school board will do its part to inform voters regarding the urgency and need for it.
"We are convinced this is a very responsible way to handle the continued growth in this district," he said.
Craft said the district is working with an architect to firm up plans for facility changes in order to present the plans to the community, so that taxpayers know exactly what officials are proposing.
"There are still a lot of moving parts to figure out, but we are excited to take this a step further," he said.