IRSD property tax rates decrease for second consecutive year

Indian River School District property taxes will again decrease for local property owners. The new rate for the 2020 fiscal year will be $3.035 per $100 of assessed property value. (Sussex County property values have not been reassessed in decades, so the assessed value is much lower than the real estate value.)

“We’re lowering the overall tax rate by 3.2 cents,” compared to last year’s tax rate of $3.067, said IRSD Superintendent Mark Steele.

The change means someone with a property assessed at $50,000 would pay about $18 less than last year. The IRSD has the lowest school tax rate of all traditional school districts in Sussex County.

The tax rate includes four percentages, plus one flat fee. Each line has rules or restrictions on how those dollars may be used.

• Current Expense remains at $2.350. (The public changes this by referendum. IRSD can use this fund at will for salaries, utilities, books, busing, reserve funds and more.)

• Debt Service decreased from $0.192 to $0.177. (The board changes this based on IR’s repaying debt on major building projects.)

• Tuition decreased from $0.480 to $0.465. (The board changes this based on yearly needs for special educational programs, such as autism or homebound instruction.)

• Minor Cap decreased from $0.045 to $.043. (The board changes this as a 40 percent match to the State’s contribution for building repairs.)

Capitation remains at $12 per occupant ($7 for current expense and $5 for debt service. (The public changes this by referendum.)

The tax rate was unanimously approved by the IRSD Board of Education on July 1, the first day of the new fiscal year. Sussex County will send property tax bills in mid-August. Payments will be due Sept. 30.

Local taxes only pay a portion of the IRSD’s overall operating budget. They receive state and federal funds, which have strict rules for use. Much funding can only be placed in certain “pots” for use. Individual schools, teachers and administrators also apply for grant funding, in between their regular duties.

Last year, the IRSD tax rate also decreased by a net 3 cents, because debt service and tuition decreased, although minor cap has been higher than usual for the past two years, as the State offers more money for minor capital improvements (building repairs).

For every penny of IRSD’s assessment, they would presumably collect $167,209, based on total county assessments.

However, some properties have delinquent taxes going back to the 1980s. According to board member Jim Fritz, the IRSD was owed $3.9 million in taxes at last count. Other school districts have shared frustrations about county governments not pushing harder to collect those back taxes.

The public can learn more about district finances at monthly school board meetings, as well as various committee meetings. The Citizens Budget Oversight Committee meets quarterly and will meet next on Tuesday, July 16, at 6 p.m. at the Indian River Educational Complex in Selbyville. The Buildings & Grounds Committee and the Finance Committee typically meet back-to-back at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. monthly, on the second Monday of each month at IREC during the school year.

The school district website is at


By Laura Walter

Staff Reporter