The Milford School District’s Board of Education is looking ahead to a future referendum regarding a new middle school by setting a voting date, ballot questions and establishing a facilities advisory committee.
As the district awaits Gov. Jack Markell’s decision on whether he will include the request for funds to support the demolition and rebuilding of the middle school in the next state budget, the board has established a Facilities Advisory Committee that will guide the process.
Milford School District Superintendent Phyllis Kohel invited approximately 30 community business people, teachers, parents and school staff to participate in the committee’s first meeting on Dec. 11. Of those invited, 17 attended, and Kohel expects to cap the committee at 20 members, plus a few pinch hitters for those who cannot regularly attend.
Seven district staff members, four Board of Education members, three city representatives, three community members/parents, two Milford Education Association members and one state representative currently make up the committee that will oversee recommendations for construction and architecture bids.
The purpose of the committee will be to make recommendations to the Board of Education regarding construction and architecture bids, if the district’s request is included in the state budget.
The district’s Certificate of Need for a new middle school, priced at $44,614,900, was recently approved by the state’s Office of Management and Budget in October. If included in the governor’s budget process, the state would cover 71 percent of the cost of this capital improvement project, with the remaining 29 percent to be covered by the local share, depending on the outcome of a referendum.
The Board of Education voted unanimously during its regular meeting Monday night to set the pending referendum date for March 26, 2014, and chose two ballot questions to be included, which will also need approval from the state Department of Elections.
The ballot questions approved by the Board of Education on Monday night will be two-fold:
The first request is for voters to approve the bond issue of a 1,200-student middle school at the same site of the existing middle school, including the demolition of the current Milford Middle School. The approval will come with a property tax increase to supplement the local portion of the project, totaling $12,938,300. The specific tax rate increase has yet to be determined, said District CFO Tammy Korosec. An estimate should be posted on the district’s website by January.
The second request is for voters to agree to a tax rate increase of 91.16 cents in Sussex County and 32.26 cents in Kent County per $100 of assessed property value to provide the $2.1 million in funding needed for operating expenses, including the continuance and maintenance of ongoing academic, vocational and athletic programs; increased energy costs; technology upgrades and services; and unfunded mandates like Response to Intervention, a support program for students in math and reading.
Page 2 of 2 - The tax increase difference between the counties relates to property value differences between Kent and Sussex counties, which will even out the dollar amount, Korosec said.
If the operating referendum does not pass and the district does not receive its needed $2.1 million for expenses, Korosec said that the district may be facing a dire financial situation as soon as the 2015-2016 school year.