Frequently Asked Questions

 

General Information

   What is a Referendum?

In Delaware, a referendum allows residents of a school district, through a ballot process, to vote to approve or reject changes to the operating expense tax and debt service tax.  These two taxes are part of the overall school tax property owners pay.  Residents (see below for who qualifies as a resident) vote yes or no to increase one or both taxes.  The taxes will generate funds the district will use to pay for general operating expenses and a partial roof replacement at Central Elementary School.

 

What is the purpose of this Referendum?

The purpose of the Seaford referendum is two-fold:  increase the operating expense tax to support the general operating expenses of the district and finance debt service expenses (capital improvement project). 

 

The operating expense tax funds items such as: 

        • Instructional materials and supplies
        • School Resource Officer
        • Technology equipment and repairs
        • Competitive local salaries (for positions financed through the units earned by the district, the State of Delaware provides a portion of funding and the district is required to pay a percentage from local funds)
        • Safety and security
        • Operations and utilities
        • Sports and athletics
        • Local share of transportation

Capital improvement projects (construction projects costing $500,000) are financed through the selling of bonds.  Principal and interest are paid on the bonds over a 20 year period.  For Seaford, debt service will allow the district to replace a partial roof at Central Elementary School.

   

Why is this happening now?

Referendums are part of a school district’s financial cycle and the frequency of referendums are driven by different factors for each district.  Seaford School District’s last successful operating expense referendum was in February 2006 or 14 years ago.  Due to on-going assessment of needs, prioritizing of funds and budget reductions, the district has been able to maximum use of current funding. 

 

With a mandatory return of approximately $650,000 of flexible state funds per year for the past 3 years, a decrease in state revenue and ending of federal stimulus and improvement funds, the district is challenged with meeting operating expenses.  Additionally, over the past 14 years, the overall cost of goods and services has increase; whether due to an increase in service unit or usage.   

 

Concerning the request to increase the debt service tax, districts may only proceed with a referendum to increase this tax once a Certification of Necessity is approved by the Department of Education.  Seaford School District submitted 6 Certificate of Necessity in August 2019 to the Department of Education (1 for each school building).  The total cost of needed repairs for all six buildings totaled $187 million dollars.  The district only received approval to replace a partial roof at Central Elementary School.  The overall cost of the project is $1,963,000.  Seaford School District is responsible for paying 25% of the cost or $491,000.  State of Delaware will pay 75% of the cost.

 

 

Voting Information

When will the Referendum vote be held?

March 4, 2020 from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

 

Where do I vote?

Seaford High School

399 N. Market Street Ext.

Seaford, DE 19973

 

Who can vote?  

             Eligible voters are:
      • At least 18 years of age
      • Those who live in Seaford and Blades and/or the geographic boundaries of Seaford School District

             Other important details:

      • You do not need to own your home
      • You do not need to be a registered voter                                   

What do voters need to bring to vote?

Proof of address (Driver’s License, State ID, Passport, or Utility Bill).

 

If I rent can I vote?

Yes, providing proof of address is provided.

 

How do I vote if I cannot go to the polls?

To vote by absentee ballot:

      • Complete an Affidavit for Absentee Ballot for Public School Elections;
      • Submit the affidavit to the Department of Elections for Sussex County.
      • Ballots can be obtained and submitted in person or by mail.
      • Website for absentee ballots:  https://sussexcountyde.gov/absentee-ballots

 

Important dates when voting by absentee ballot:

February 27 - Return your affidavit February 27 to the Department of Elections, Sussex County Office

March 2 - Deadline to mail your Absentee Ballot to the Department of Elections

 

I do not have children who attend schools in the Seaford School District.  Why should I vote? 

Good schools benefit everyone.

      • Good schools increase property values and help keep communities safe. 
      • Good schools attract new businesses, which brings income to the community and help keep residential taxes low.
      • Good schools graduate highly skilled students, who attract businesses to the community. 
      • Good schools graduate well-prepared students who make great citizens in the community and help the local economy grow.
      • Good schools provide opportunities for you, your family, your neighbors, and friends to access outstanding performing arts, cultural and athletic activities.

 

 

Financials

Is there relief for senior citizens?

Yes, full details can be viewed at:  https://sussexcountyde.gov/tax-assistance-programs.  Questions about the State Senior Citizen School Property Tax Credit or exemptions for those who are disabled may contact the Sussex County Exemption Coordinator, Donna Stevenson, at (302)-855-7762. 

  

The criteria for senior citizen relief includes:

      • Delaware must be a full-time, primary residence;
      • Residency requirement in Delaware the last three (3) years prior to July 1, 2017
      • Ten year residency requirement for new applicants after July 1, 2017
      • Have a Delaware Driver's License (60 days by law to change driver's license);
      • Statewide deadline is APRIL 30Exemption does NOT transfer to new property. A new application must be completed for each move.
      • Taxpayers must pay their property tax bill in full by the end of each tax year in order to qualify for this credit for the subsequent property tax year.

How much will my Seaford school taxes increase?

Since the school tax amount a property owner pays is impacted by multiple tax components in addition to current operating expense tax and debt service, the overall increase is off-set by maturing bonds and decreases to the match taxes.  To determine an approximate value of the increase, please access the tax projection calculator resource at:  https://www.seafordbluejays.org/calculator.jsp

 

Are Seaford school taxes really based on assessed values from 1974?

 Yes, the assessed values for remodeled and/or new homes built after 1974 are based on 1974 replacement costs.  The average assessed value for Seaford is $13,324.46.

  

The 1974 value is determined by many factors including but not limited to the following: Land Class (agriculture, residential or commercial), computing the base cost of the structure based on square footage, adding or detracting any elements/characteristics of the structure such as foundation type, basement, heating/cooling system, exterior wall type, roofing type, garages, porches, decks, patios, etc. It will also include any accessory structures on the property including but not limited to storage sheds, pole buildings, in-ground pools, paver patios etc. The 1974 replacement cost values were provided to the County by the H.L. Yoh Company in 1974 when they conducted their initial reassessment.

 

What is the difference between assessed values and market value?

Assessed values are based on replacement costs from 1974.  Market value is what a property would sell for in a competitive market based on the features and benefits of that property (the value), the overall real estate market, supply and demand, and what other similar properties have sold for in the same condition. 

 

What are the highest and lowest assessed values in Seaford?

Currently the highest assessed property in the Seaford School District is the old DuPont Plant (531-13.00-7.00). There are several vacant agriculture properties that would fall into the lowest assessed property in the Seaford School District since they are in the Farmland Assessment Act and have a zero assessed value.

 

What are examples of assessed values in the different developments in the district?

Property owners are encouraged to use the Tax Calculator https://www.seafordbluejays.org/calculator.jsp in order to review approximate changes to their school tax bill.  Tax rates are estimates based on several factors including interest rates, bonds with twenty year maturity, assessed value of district, and assessment to sales ration. As any or all of these estimates could change resulting in alterations to the tax rate, the district will not be releasing specific examples. Cost figures are rounded to two decimal places during calculation.

 

If I have additional questions concerning the assessment of my property, who should I call?

Call the Sussex County Government at:  (302) 855-7824.

 

What is the current expense tax rate for other districts?

 Milford                        4.8913

Woodbridge              4.556

Laurel                         4.417

Delmar                       4.2017

Cape Henlopen         3.9921 (going to referendum in the spring of 2020)

Seaford                       3.934

Indian River               3.035 (going to referendum in February 2020)

 

What is the Choice Program and what is the economic impact on Seaford School District for when students choice to another school?

The Delaware School Choice Program began in the 1996-1997 School Year. The law addressing School Choice is found in 14 Del. C Chapter 4 (See Delaware Code online). Per § 401 Establishment; statement of purpose, it is the goal of the General Assembly to increase access to educational opportunity for all children throughout the State regardless of where they may live. Section § 414 Intra-district choice allows for the consideration of a child enrolling in a different school or program within a district.

 

The Delaware Department of Education has provided the following guidance regarding School Choice, “A parent residing within the State of Delaware may seek to enroll that parent's child in a Delaware public school in any school district, charter school, magnet school or vocational-technical school through the standard application form. Any student not currently registered in a public school in the State of Delaware must be registered in their School of Residence before submitting a standard application form.”

 

Seaford School District is currently on a downward trend for parents electing to choice their child to another district, vocational school or charter school.  The following provides a breakout by fiscal year and funding amounts transferred to the different choice choice options (ii.e. intra-district, another district, vocational school or charter school).  Data provided is inclusive of funds Seaford School District transfers to the other choice options and also funds received by the Seaford School District for students choicing to the district.

 

FY 2019-2020              $339,820.04

FY 2018-2019              $347,838.45

FY 2017-2018              $323,967.72

FY 2016-2017              $352,027.25

 

 

Additional Resources

If you have any questions about the referendum, please email Seaford School District at:

referendum@seaford.k12.de.us or call (302) 629-4587