Appoquinimink School District residents will have the opportunity to vote for or against a tax increase via a referendum on Tuesday, Dec. 12.
In its board meeting Tuesday night, Superintendent Matthew Burrows explained the revenue would be put towards toward three new school buildings, a bus lot, educator recruiting and retention efforts, technology and safety initiatives.
He said the referendum is divided into a capital piece and an operational piece.
Just like other districts going through referendum have stated, Burrows repeated that the growth of the district has led to district expenses outpacing district revenue.
“We’re over 13,000 kids, almost 2,000 employees, and we have 21 school buildings,” Burrows said. “We are the fastest growing school district in the state. Our growth surpasses any other school districts, but with that we’re in a unique situation here in New Castle County because our property assessment values are the lowest in the county.”
In the past five years, Appo has grown 17%, and Burrows said the district is projected to have an increase of about 20,000 more residents over the next decade.
The average property assessment value in the district is $92,000. If the referendum is successful, the average homeowner would have their taxes increased by $36 a month, or $435 per year.
“A district to the north of us, which is not even 500 students greater than we are, brings in about $90 million of local revenue, where we bring in about $37 million in local revenue,” Burrows said, “and that’s who we’re competing against for teachers and for resources.”
The district is asking for residents to support three projects: a middle and high school on the Summit Campus, an elementary school on Green Giant Road and a bus lot to improve safety at Alfred G. Waters Middle School.
Cars are bumper to bumper at the middle school, Burrows said, with a long line of cars out into the main road. He also said students are often running towards the buses to go home and there’s not much space between buses.
This all creates safety concerns and a complicated operation when school lets out.
The bus lot would cost $4,210,825 and be funded 100% through local revenue.
If the referendum is successful, the bus lot would be completed in early 2025.
For the three new schools, the district needs $289,841,521 in funding. However, the state would cover 77%, or $223,177,971, and the local residents would cover the remaining $66,663,550 through taxes.
If residents approve the tax hike, the three new schools are set to be built by fall 2028.
Educator recruitment and retention
This represents 84% of the total operational request.
Burrows said the district’s most important resource is its people, and those educating the future of the state.
“We have 84 teaching openings right now, and we have 36 full-time paraeducator openings,” he said. “We pay the least in New Castle County. As you get up in our scale, the gap on average is about $5,000.”
In order to be competitive in hiring, Burrows said the district needs to increase teacher pay.
Safety and security
The safety of the district’s children is a matter of unparalleled importance, Burrows said.
The district wants to ensure it can maintain a constable in each of its 21 school buildings – and potentially adding more constables if more buildings are added– as well as expanding the use of weapons detection technology throughout the district to remain as proactive as possible.
For example, the district implemented weapons detection technology for out-of-school events like sports games.
“Some of those constables that we added to every one of our buildings are currently being funded out of the safety and security grant,” Burrows said. “And that grant over the last 13 years of me being superintendent has come and gone at different points, so we want to have this sustainable resource in our buildings.”
School constables are often current or former police officers who are armed but do not have arresting power like a school resource officer does.
More districts have been hiring both over the past couple of years as school safety increasingly becomes more of a priority.
District expansion comes with increased costs as the district has to purchase curriculum, materials and textbooks.
Burrows pointed out the price on these, as with all goods, have been on the rise.
The district also prides itself on its arts community, and the revenue boost would help replenish equipment like musical instruments.
Investment in technology
This focus is to ensure all students, kindergarten through 12th grade, receive a device, whether that be an iPad or Chromebook depending on grade level.
“Student devices ensure all students have access to technology both in school and at home and allow our teachers to individualize learning for students and improve outcomes,” Burrows said.
The funding will also help the district create replacement cycles for Smartboards.
Polls will be open Dec. 12 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Participants do not have to be registered voters, but they do need some form of identification showing they live within the district.
Polling stations include:
- Alfred G. Waters Middle
- Brick Mill Elementary
- Bunker Hill Elementary
- Crystal Run Elementary
- Lorewood Grove Elementary
- Marion Proffitt Training Center
- Middletown High
- Old State Elementary
- Olive B. Loss Elementary
- Silver Lake Elementary
- Townsend Elementary
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz
Share this Post