The Milford School District Superintendent Phyllis Kohel recently suggested seeking a referendum for $3 million in operating costs to offset current deficit spending and seeking more public input regarding what to do about the middle school. The referendum has a tentative date of Oct. 11.
The Milford School District is expected to seek another referendum this fall, but it won’t include any funding to demolish, renovate or rebuild Milford Middle School.
District Superintendent Phyllis Kohel suggested during a July 29 special meeting that the school board pursue a referendum only for operating costs to offset the district’s ongoing deficit spending.
But she advised the school board to seek more public input regarding what to do about the middle school before putting its fate to a public vote.
“There is no question that we’re going to need another building, however we need more input from the community,” she said. “In the meantime, we have to do something about operations.”
Kohel said that despite recent budget cuts of more than $500,000, the district’s contingency fund will be depleted in two years if current spending trends continue.
In March, voters rejected a two-fold referendum that requested an additional $2.1 million in current expense tax funding, as well as roughly $12 million in local funding for the demolition and reconstruction of the middle school, which has been closed since June 2013.
If approved, the $2.1 million in operating funds would have resulted in an increase of the average home owner’s school taxes by $94.36 per year. The operating budget request fell short of approval by 305 votes.
During last month’s meeting, Kohel proposed increasing the current expense request to $3 million for operating costs. The tax rate increase needed to generate that funding has not yet been calculated, according to Milford School District Chief Financial Officer Sara Croce.
“We’d like to be able to replenish some of the areas we cut and we couldn’t do that with $2.1 million,” Kohel said after the meeting.
Included in the recent budget cuts were three athletic programs, more than a dozen limited contracts, and 20-percent cuts to various district-wide budget categories, including individual school operations budgets, the athletic budget and maintenance.
However, the district will need approval from the Delaware Office of Management and Budget before making a change to their initial referendum request.
Kohel said the tentative date for the second referendum is Oct. 11.
Because the district is not seeking a referendum concerning the middle school, the district would have to reapply for state funding to help pay for the demolition and reconstruction of the Milford Middle School, Kohel said.
The board voted 5-0 to seek a referendum to supplement $3 million in operating costs, contingent upon the state’s approval of a change to its Certificate of Necessity. Board members Hunter Emory and Barry Fry were not present.
“We basically don’t have much choice,” board member Mark Schanne said. “If we’re not fiscally responsible, we won’t have a district. We don’t want to raise anybody’s taxes, but we need to educate our children.”