Referendum defeat leaves problems unsolved

Indian River School District voters turned out by the thousands on Tuesday to voice their wishes on a proposed tax increase to fund desperately needed construction of a new high school and new classrooms at others. By a margin of around 600 voters, both the capital improvements and expenses portions of the referendum were rejected.

Even beyond those numbers, this is an issue that’s full of figures. So, let’s look at the numbers: 10,697 total students, and growing (rapidly); 1,826 students added since 2011 alone; and that rate is expected to grow, with 12,473 students expected to be in the district by 2024. That’s a tide the district is powerless to stem.

Finally, with a proposed tax increase of 9 cents per $100 of assessed property value (generally based on a 1974 reassessment) and a maximum increase of 35 cents per $100 (which would be phased in and then phase back out entirely) — the average property owner in the district would pay a maximum of $87.55 more in property taxes, annually. (That’s $7.30 per month.) The permanent increase would be $18.59 per year ($1.55 per month).

That’s the value that the district has put on alleviating tremendous existing overcrowding at Sussex Central High School, and considerable capacity problems at several other district schools that will have kids learning in portable trailers outside the school buildings.

After Tuesday’s vote, the question remains: How will we solve this problem impacting our children and our community for many years to come? Regardless of how you voted, the ball’s now in your court. The problem doesn’t go away just because people refused to fund the preferred solution. So, it’s time for us all to step up and figure out how to best serve our community and its future generations.