On Tuesday, October 6, voters in Milford School District passed an operations referendum with 1,621 (56%) votes for and 1,282 (44%) against. The referendum will allow the district to meet a budget deficit of more than $1 million and eliminate the need for the state to step in at the end of the 2016-17 school year.
“This is the result of a lot of hard work,” said Board of Education President, Renate Wiley. “We have worked to let the public know our needs and the community has come through to support the students in our school district.”
The results, which were confirmed by the Department of Elections on Tuesday, October 7, showed that voters at Morris Early Childhood had the closest margin, with just 53% percent of voters approving the measure. Milford High School had 58 % and Banneker Elementary 56 % voting to approve the increase in taxes. Sixty-three percent of absentee ballots voted yes for the referendum.
“I absolutely want to thank everyone, especially our teachers who came through to support this measure,” said Dr. Phyllis Kohel, Superintendent. “We also know that we will need the same support in the future as our district grows. This vote shows that our community truly supports what we are trying to do and it has taken the everyone’s efforts to make this happen. We are truly grateful and thankful for the community’s trust and support as we work to provide excellent education to the children of Milford School District.”
According to Dr. Kohel, the need for the referendum was not due to mismanagement on the part of the district and more to do with cuts at both the state and federal level. Over the past five years, the Delaware Department of Education has passed more than $3.4 million in cuts to local school districts, requiring Milford to reach into their contingency funds for regular operating costs over those years. Had the referendum not passed, the district said they would no longer be able to meet their payroll obligations at the end of the 2016-17 school year, requiring the state to send a financial recovery team to determine what programs or positions would need to be cut in order to balance the budget.
In addition to addressing the budget shortfall, the increase in taxes, which will amount to $140 per year or $12 per month for the average homeowner in Milford, will also allow the district to restore programs that had been cut in an effort to balance the budget. It would also allow the district to recruit and retain highly-qualified teachers and support increased operational costs. The district is also considering adding programs, especially at the high school level, designed to help students who wish to enter certain trades upon graduation. This could include a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program in conjunction with Bayhealth.
“A strong and supportive culture surrounding our education system in Milford sends a signal to our growing community that the residents of Milford are committed to investing in future generations, helping them remain competitive after secondary education and preparing them for leadership roles in our community,” said Mayor Bryan Shupe. “Although the operations referendum has passed, it is up to the residents of Milford School District to be involved in the decision-making process of our schools at every level. Whether it is through the Milford School Board, school organizations or even at the classroom level, parents and residents must be engaged now to ensure the future they envision for our schools is pursued and achieved. There are many challenges on the road ahead, and with the help of our community, the Milford School District can become not only the best district among Southern Delaware schools, but the best district in the state.”