Smyrna School District referendum is Tuesday

By Brooke Schultz
Posted 3/22/21

SMYRNA — A new elementary school, expansions and operating funds are on the ballot for those in the Smyrna School District on Tuesday.

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Smyrna School District referendum is Tuesday

Posted

SMYRNA — A new elementary school, expansions and operating funds are on the ballot for those in the Smyrna School District on Tuesday.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Smyrna Middle School, 700 Duck Creek Parkway; Smyrna Elementary School, 21 S. School Lane; and the Kenton Ruritan Club, 249 S. Main St.

The ballot will be split into two questions, one targeting operating funds and the other capital projects.

Both facets of the referendum would support growth. Enrollment is nearly 6,000 students in the district and is expected to reach 7,000 by 2024, Superintendent Patrik Williams said in a presentation on the referendum.

The district will ask voters to approve an increase of 25 cents per $100 of assessed property value in New Castle County and 32 cents per $100 of assessed property value in Kent County. The funds are estimated to raise about $2.5 million in fiscal year 2022.

The average taxpayer in either county would see an increase of $119.85 per year, officials said.

Voters will also be asked to authorize the issuance of bonds for the local portion — which is about $20.9 million — for capital improvements. The bonds are financed through an increase to property taxes taken over nearly three decades. The state is taking on a brunt of total cost for the project (77%), which is $90.9 million.

Taxes wouldn’t see an increase due to construction until 2024. The average taxpayer in both counties would actually see a reduction in the first two years ($2.40 and $5.97, respectively) due to other bonds retiring. In year three, the average taxpayer would see an increase of $13.16, year four would be $38.21, and year five would be $6.02, according to public notice documents.

Every year after the fifth year, taxpayers would see a decrease.

The bonds would allow for the purchase of land and the construction of a new elementary school. The school would sit on 15 acres across from Sunnyside Elementary School and serve 600 students. The land purchase would occur in 2021.

“It took us three years, with several searches of possible land parcels in open areas of the district, only to learn the state would not approve anything out of the growth zone,” Mr. Williams said. “Town, county and state planners are requiring schools to be built within the fabric of the developed communities, in particular, right within actual approved developments that would surround a new school, making it a true community school.”

The school would eventually serve all fourth and fifth graders in the Clayton school feeder pattern, while the district works to turn Clayton Intermediate School into Clayton Middle School — as has always been intended, Mr. Williams said.

“That time is now,” he said. “Our current Smyrna Middle School is full, and as more and more students continue to arrive, we have to be proactive in finding a place for them to attend. Clayton Intermediate is the perfect location, with all of its fields and parking. That’s why we built it in such a wide, open area when we did, with lots of room to expand.”

Under the referendum, Clayton Intermediate School would see a 400-student addition, with an expanded cafeteria and locker rooms to allow for the school to transition to a middle school, eventually serving grades six through eight. It would allow Smyrna Middle to serve sixth graders, too.

“A huge win for our community,” Mr. Williams said.

Funds raised through the issuance of bonds would also allow for a 200-student addition to North Smyrna Elementary. “As our early-childhood program continues to swell and as our K-to-three enrollment keeps pace, as well, North needs more space,” he said.

Given the density in the school — with some related arts programs and other instruction happening in the library — the district would soon need to pay $100,000 for each portable classroom needed, Mr. Williams said.

“If we have to use district funds to buy portable classrooms, then the state contributes zero,” he said. “That would all be local money, and it would be money that would serve no long-term benefit for our students. So we must build an addition to North that would accommodate 200 students.”

The district most recently passed a referendum targeting capital improvements last year. At that time, it sought funding to renovate mechanical systems and replace the roof at North Smyrna Elementary School.