Lake Forest's referendum is Saturday, May 6.

Lake Forest referendum Saturday on increasing taxes 

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

Lake Forest's referendum is Saturday, May 6.

Lake Forest’s referendum is Saturday, May 6.

Another Kent County school district is going to referendum this weekend to raise operating revenue and avoid dramatically cutting student services.

Felton’s Lake Forest School District is hoping to raise school property taxes by 18.90 cents in the 2023-2024 school year, 10.80 cents in 2024-2025 and 37 cents in 2025-2026 – per each $100 of assessed home value.

If the district’s residents vote yes, Lake Forest will generate an additional $1,050,197 in revenue for fiscal year 2024, $600,113 in fiscal year 2025 and $405,632 in fiscal year 2026.

The average assessed value in the district is $33,878, so a typical homeowner would have a tax hike of $64.03 in year one, $36.59 in year two and $24.73 in year three. 

Caesar Rodney School District, in Wyoming, had its April 22 referendum fail, which would have increased taxes $211 for the average homeowner. 

RELATED: Caesar Rodney referendum results, next steps for district

“Unfortunately, while the District has been exceptionally good stewards of the resources with which you entrusted us then, the time has come again to assess our tax rates to ensure our resources can secure the long-term health and maintenance of district operations,” said Superintendent Steven Lucas in a statement to the community.

The district states that costs for personnel and resources have escalated and will continue to escalate, and the effective result is it needs to raise additional operating revenue, operate beyond its means, or cut various services to its students.

Lake Forest’s school board voted to go to referendum in its March 9 meeting.

For residents looking to find exactly how much their taxes will be increased, the district has a calculator where someone can plug in the value of their home to see the tax hike for the next three years.

The district’s tax rate for assessed home value is the lowest combined total rate in the county and of the traditional schools in the entire state. 

Its current tax rate is $1.6122 per $100 of assessed home value, which comes out to an average of $546 per year, or $45.50 per month.

It’s been eight years since Lake Forest held a tax referendum.

However, the district has been forced to tighten its belt on certain expenses, spending less in several areas when compared to prior years, according to district documents.

Several of Lake Forest’s largest budget units are up over $1 million in costs over the past four years. They include local salaries, transportation and school resource officers. 

To counteract that, the district has reduced more than 20 other budget units a collective 22%, but it hasn’t been enough to keep up with costs.

Other cost cutting measures have included consolidation of bus routes and an administrative position at the central business office. 

With personnel costs making up nearly 80% of the budget, changes to the other 20% of the local expenses cannot offset increases in personnel expenses, the district says.

Impact on Lake Forest

The four areas hit hardest, according to the district, are staff recruitment and retention, school safety and security, transportation and technology.

If the referendum passes, the revenue will help the district with:

  • Continuing school safety and security initiatives including adding constables in schools
  • Continuing transportation services necessitated by higher state contract costs
  • Recruiting and retaining highly qualified school staff
  • Technology sustainment – essential technology maintenance and replacement for students expanded to all grades, kindergarten through twelfth
  • Paying for increased costs of substitute teachers and paraprofessionals
  • The continuance of ongoing programs like textbooks, instructional programs and supplies, maintenance of facilities and more

The referendum will take place on Saturday, May 6, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Voters will choose “for” or “against” on the ballot. 

Polling places include Lake Forest Central Elementary School in Felton, North Elementary School in Felton, Frederica Fire Hall in Frederica and South Elementary School in Harrington.

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