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FAQs

• Is Colonial going to increase taxes again through a ‘match tax’?
We don’t yet have that authority.  Giving school boards the authority to generate additional funding to offset cuts in state funding was proposed by the Governor in his recommended budget.  The General Assembly must act to approve this proposal before June 30th in order for it to become law.  If approved by the General Assembly, our Board of Education would have the authority to make a decision on whether or not to raise additional funds.

• There’s a consultant working on the referendum- is any taxpayer money being used for this?
No.  The referendum consultant is being paid through funds generated by the Friends of Colonial, which is a group that is separate and independent from the district.  Friends of Colonial is funded through private donations.

• Why did you lay teachers off already?  The second vote hasn’t yet happened.
Districts are required by State law to notify teachers of their employment status for the upcoming year by May 15th.  Since the second vote is scheduled for after May 15th, we must act in a financially responsible way and issue these notifications in case the vote is not in favor of the increase.  Should the referendum pass on June 6th, our first priority will be bringing back as many of our teachers and paras as possible.  We will not be able to restore all jobs because we may still be facing cuts due to the State budget situation.

• Did Colonial Fail an Audit?
Click here for Colonial’s Statement on 2015 Construction Audit

• How has the district managed its budget?
Since 2013, the district budget has increased 2.75% annually.  However, at the same time student enrollment has increased by over 200 students and 80 teaching positions.  Each year, the district has trimmed non-personnel expenditures to maintain low budget growth.  This includes energy efficiency programs, cost containment efforts and consolidation of services.  The 2013 operating referendum was intended to last 3-5 years and the district kept its promise.

• How will the money be tracked?  Can funds be redirected?
The Citizen Financial Oversight Committee was formed in 2010 to review district budgets and monthly financial reports.  After the 2013 referendum, the Committee closely tracked referendum expenditures by project, ensuring all funds were spent according to the Referendum plan.

• Are the proposed cuts scare tactics?
No, when Colonial was unsuccessful in passing a Referendum in 2013 there were millions of dollars in cuts implemented across the district.  Many students and parents remember the impacts of these very real cuts.  The District was able to restore the cuts after passing the Referendum in 2013.

• I hear Colonial has too many administrators – how do you compare to other districts?
Colonial currently has 168 students for every one administrator.  When we compared that number to other Delaware school districts, we found out:
1. Colonial’s ratio is better than the state average of 156 students to every one administrator;
2. Colonial’s ratio is the best in New Castle County; meaning that we are operating with the fewest administrators for our student population.

• Why is a Referendum needed? What went wrong?
Nothing went wrong.  A referendum is part of the cycle of funding for public schools in Delaware.  Districts are funded by a combination of state and local funds.  Local funds are raised from property taxes that are based on 1983 assessments (this includes new homes built after 1983- no homes in New Castle County, regardless of their age, are assessed on their current value).

• Didn’t Colonial just have a referendum?
Colonial’s last successful operating Referendum was in 2013. We promised to make that last 3 to 5 years. We have done as promised. The district has been operating on the same local revenues since that time. Currently, by state law, a referendum is the only way a district can increase local operating funding.

• What will the Referendum money buy?
While revenues have stayed constant, expenses have gone up since 2013 because of increases in student enrollment and increases in our special education population, which require additional staff.    This Referendum will ensure that we can keep these additional teachers and para educators and continue to provide these important academic supports and maintain our current class sizes. It will also give us the funds needed to handle the expected student growth in the next few years.  And you may have heard that Governor Carney has proposed cuts to the education budget for next year.  The funds from the referendum will also help to minimize the impact of any state cuts.

• Doesn’t the state pay for teacher positions?
The state pays for approximately 65% of the cost of each teacher position.  The District must supply the other 35% of the cost with local funds.  As student growth continues to trigger the need for more teacher positions, the District must have enough local revenue to fund our portion of these positions.

• Who will benefit from the Referendum? 
This Referendum is about every student in every grade at every school.  Every parent wants their child to be in a safe environment with the best education supports that can be provided.

• What happens if we don’t pass the Referendum?
Without a Referendum, cuts must be made because we have been balancing our budget with reserve funds.  Those reserve funds are running out so to continue to operate with a balanced budget, our expenditures must be reduced.  The projected cuts will affect all areas of the district. These cuts include operational budgets and program reductions but the biggest impact will be in staff reductions because it constitutes the biggest portion of our budget.  We will need to notify over 170 employees that their jobs will be eliminated if the referendum is not successful.  Cuts of this magnitude would impact every school, every staff member and every student.

• Will the Governor’s proposed budget cuts from the state impact the referendum?
All school districts will be impacted by the state cuts.  The potential impact to Colonial could be as much as $3.6 million.  The operating funds generated by the referendum will help the district minimize the impact of these cuts

• How much will the Referendum cost?  What will the increase cost me?
The Referendum is phased in over two years.  By the end of the 2019 the tax increase would be 38 cents per $100 of assessed value.  We will phase that increase in over 2 years- 27 cents in year one and another 11 cents in year two.  For an average home in Colonial it equates to $23 per month in year two and beyond.  Specific property tax assessment information can be found at http://www.nccde.org/parcelview.

• How are students attending charter schools impacted by the Referendum?
All students, whether they attend traditional public or charter schools, benefit from the Referendum.  Students at charter schools are supported by the taxes of their home district.  When expenditures per pupil increase, the receiving charter schools received a similar percentage of additional funding.

•How does Colonial taxes compare to surrounding districts?
Currently Colonial’s tax rate is lower than Appoquinimink, Red Clay, Brandywine and Christina.

• What is the result of other recent referenda?
Failing a referendum has led districts to return to voters with revised proposals. In 2016, Christina successfully passed their referendum after 3 attempts and operating for a full school year with a severely reduced budget and dramatic staff cuts.  Brandywine passed after 2 attempts while Appoquinimink was successful in their first attempt in December 2016.  In February 2017, Indian River in Sussex county passed on their second attempt.

• Who is eligible to vote?
Any US citizen who is 18 years of age or older and a resident of the Colonial district as of June 6, 2017.  You do not have to be a registered voter to vote in a Referendum.

• Do I have to own property to vote?
No, so long as you live within Colonial and are 18 years of age and a US citizen.

• I will not be able to get to the polling place.  Can I get an absentee ballot?
Yes, you can contact the New Castle County Department of Elections for absentee ballots the following: by email  absentee@state.de.us,  by phone 302.577.3464 or by mail at
Dept. of Elections for New Castle County
Carvel State Office Building
820 N FRENCH ST STE 400
WILMINGTON DE 19801-3531

• Doesn’t the state pay for teacher positions?
The state pays for approximately 65% of the cost of each teacher position.  The District must supply the other 35% of the cost with local funds.  As student growth continues to trigger the need for more teach

• As mentioned in the 2017 Fiscal Year Final Budget, it states that Colonial School District has to give money to the charter schools. Why is that?
Paying charters is required by State law.  The student funding follows the student when they choice out of the district or enroll in a charter school.

What’s at stake?

Colonial will need to make significant budget cuts without additional revenue generated by a successful referendum. With 70% of our budget spent on people, instituting these cuts will impact staff and programming. This includes:
Current Class Sizes
Instructional Staff
Support Staff
Administrative Staff
Enhancement and expansion of programs

Have a question?

If you have a question regarding the 2017 Referendum, please fill out the form below and a representative of the Colonial School District will get back to you asap.

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