School Referendum Fails To Pass

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Photo of the previous Milford Middle School, Taken Carolyn Cohee.
Photo of the previous Milford Middle School, Taken Carolyn Cohee.
On Wednesday, March 26 residents of the Milford School District went to the polls to vote on a construction and operational referendum. The first question on the ballet asked residents if they were for or against borrowing $12,938,300 to demolish the previous Milford Middle School (MMS) and construct of a new middle school on the same site. The second question on the ballet asked residents to vote for or against borrowing additional funds to assist maintaining academic and vocational programs and increased energy costs and technology upgrades. Both questions failed to pass as 54.7% of the electorate voted against the construction referendum (1014 votes against, 839 votes for) and 55.2% of the electorate voted against the operational referendum (1078 votes against, 766 votes for).

School administration and school board members met at the Milford School District building after the polls closed to tally the votes with officials from Kent County Department of Elections. Superintendent of the Milford School District, Phyllis Kohel was disappointed to see the results as they came into the office.

“I am extremely disappointed particularly for the students, the truth still remains that our schools are overcrowded. If the enrollment projections are correct we are going to need another school,” commented Phyllis. “I do not believe this vote is a reflection of the commitment of the community to the district, they have always been there for us. I do not think that they understood the need for a new building.”

Along with Kohel, Milford School Board President Marvin Schelhouse expressed his gratitude for the individuals that voted for the referendum on Wednesday. “I appreciate all of the people that came out and supported us,” commented Schelhouse. “I am really disappointed that it did not pass, if everyone could have received the message we were putting out there, they would understand the dire need to do this.”

Moving forward after the referendum, school officials agree that a new Milford middle school will be needed in the near future. Superintendent Kohel points to a study by the University of Delaware Center for Applied Demography and Survey Research that suggests that “the Milford School District student enrollment will increase gradually over the next 10 years, gaining on average about 55 students per year for the first five years and about 41 students over the last five years.” Kohel says that the school board will now look for areas to cut expenses and plan for a possible referendum again in six months.

“This vote means that we will have to cut further,” commented Kohel. “We will be meeting with the community and see where we can do a better job at getting the message out and possibly come back in six months with another referendum.”

Schelhouse believes that the most immediate effects of Wednesday’s vote will be the school board reviewing the budget again and possibly making tough cuts. “We will take a look at cutting back spending but there are a lot of things that the district is mandated to do,” commented Schelhouse. “ The next step will be to lay out a plan of where we go from here. It will be very challenging, we will see where we can cut, maybe staff, programs, athletics, we will have to look at all of that.”