Saturday's Lake Forest tax referendum passed, with 66% approval.

Lake Forest votes to raise school property taxes 

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

Saturday's Lake Forest tax referendum passed, with 66% approval.

Saturday’s Lake Forest tax referendum passed, with 66% approval.

Three weeks after Caesar Rodney School District’s tax referendum failed, residents of another Kent County school district overwhelmingly voted to increase property to give their schools additional revenue. 

Lake Forest School District, in Felton,voted Saturday 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.

The district 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.

“Things did go really well, and the most important thing that I could say is major kudos and thanks to our community for coming together for a good cause,” said Superintendent Steve Lucas. “The people of Lake Forest really recognize the value of education and the job that we’re doing here, and we thank them for that. We look forward to doing everything we said we’re going to do.”

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. 

Out of 966 total ballots, 635 people, or 66% of voters, voted for the added tax.

Lake Forest’s school board voted to go to referendum during its March 9 meeting because the district’s costs for personnel and resources have escalated and will continue to escalate, resulting in a need to raise additional operating revenue, operate beyond its means or cut various services to its students.

RELATED: Lake Forest referendum Saturday on increasing taxes  

“Our first order of business is to follow through on our commitment to increase safety and security,” Lucas said. 

Part of that commitment is adding more constables in schools. 

The revenue also will help the district pay its staff more in order to attract more workers with competitive compensation, he said.

This includes hiring more substitute teachers and paraprofessionals.

“It’s also going to really settle us in terms of being able to put our plan in place for technology, specifically the upkeep of technology,” he said. 

The additional revenue also gives the district peace of mind when it comes to transportation, Lucas said, because transportation costs are sometimes unpredictable. 

Lake Forest’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 equates to an average of $546 per year, or $45.50 per month.

“This successful referendum just gives us the ability to plan in the future with confidence,” Lucas said, “and it helps us with making some good choices where operations are concerned.”

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