Keeping pace: Appoquinimink, Brandywine ask for tax increases in coming referendum votes

Two Delaware school districts are headed to tax referendum votes in the coming months, hoping to boost funds to cover increased operating costs and capital improvement.

Appoquinimink schools will send residents to the polls Dec. 12, while the Brandywine school board has voted to head to a referendum in February 2024.

"Our district is at a competitive disadvantage compared to surrounding school districts with which we compete for limited resources," Appo writes in its case for 2023 referendum online. "The new home communities that continue to be built contribute to our district's revenue — however, that revenue isn’t enough to keep pace with the costs of educating students."

Appoquinimink lays out a 2-part request

Superintendent Matthew Burrows hosted his first virtual community presentation on the referendum last month, with another set to come. He said his district has already grown 17% in the past five years.

The district's appeal to residents will come in two parts.

One is operational, looking to keep up with "rapid growth" through teacher recruitment, safety improvements and investment in technology. The other is capital spending, as district leaders hope to expand facilities serving students. For these requests, Appo is looking for an increase of 47 cents for every $100 in assessed property value.

The district's average assessment is $92,700, according to the school system. At that value, residents would see an increase of $36 per month, or $435 per year, if the referendum is passed. Appo has a tax calculator to figure out the personal impact.

Appoquinimink's most recent referendum was in 2021, which funded the rebuilding of Louis L. Redding Middle School. A 2019 referendum included a similar package of capital component and an operational one focused on keeping up with growth.

"As our district continues to grow, we're asking for your continued support," Burrows said in a video kicking off the referendum.

Capital projects would include:

  • A middle school and high school on the Summit Campus — set to open in fall 2028 if plans keep.

  • An elementary school on Green Giant Road — expected to open by fall 2028

  • And a bus lot to improve safety at Alfred G. Waters Middle School — aimed for early 2025

On the operational side:

  • Educator recruitment and retention. Also known as 84% of this operational request. Appoquinimink's average teacher compensation is the lowest in New Castle County, according to the district, and — "we need to be more competitive."

  • Safety and security. The focus of this request is to maintain a constable in all school buildings and expand the use of weapons detection technology throughout the district "to remain as proactive as possible," the district explained online.

  • Operating expenses associated with enrollment growth. Appoquinimink requires more learning materials for new students while keeping up with rising costs across the board. The request would also fund replenishment cycles for visual and performing arts, band and music equipment.

  • Investment in technology. This request would aim to ensure all students grades K – 12 receive a 1:1 device, either an iPad or Chromebook, depending on grade level. This will also include investing in Smartboard replacement cycles and other IT needs.

Polls will open by 7 a.m. on Dec. 12, across 10 schools registered as polling places and close at 8 p.m. A valid form of ID will be required to vote, while voters just need to be a resident and at least 18 years old.

  • Alfred G. Waters Middle School

  • Brick Mill Elementary School

  • Bunker Hill Elementary School

  • Crystal Run Elementary School

  • Lorewood Grove Elementary School

  • Marion E. Proffitt Training Center

  • Middletown High School

  • Old State Elementary School

  • Olive B. Loss Elementary School

  • Silver Lake Elementary

  • Townsend Elementary School

Brandywine prepares for referendum 2024

Four chromebooks pictured from above.
Four chromebooks pictured from above.

Brandywine School District is hoping to keep up with operating costs.

A bit earlier in the process than its neighbors, the school board has voted to approve a February referendum plan. The system is seeking an increase of 45 cents per $100 of assessed value, spread out over two years — 25 cents in year one and 20 cents in year two — with a referendum vote set for February 13, 2024.

If voters agree, Brandywine’s average property value, $72,701, would see about an extra $15 per month in year one and $12 a month in year two.

According to the district, there are no capital projects on the docket with this request. The New Castle County district is aiming to cover operational costs, update technology and invest in school safety improvements.

Zooming out, many Delawareans already have tax on the mind.

While administrators have to balance budgets, improve school facilities and keep pace with growth, many residents are already bracing for possible tax increases in the wake of the first property reassessment in decades.

U.S. Senator Tom Carper speaks to students outside Brandywine High School before they leave to canvass the area in support of a referendum on the Brandywine School District in 2016.
U.S. Senator Tom Carper speaks to students outside Brandywine High School before they leave to canvass the area in support of a referendum on the Brandywine School District in 2016.

Are my taxes already going up?

Maybe, maybe not.

The First State is coordinating a statewide reassessment of property values both residential and commercial for the first time since the 1980s, as previously reported by Delaware Online/The News Journal.

Data collection began in 2021 after a judge ruled Delaware's property tax system was unconstitutional, and all three counties hired the firm Tyler Technologies to carry out assessments.

Sussex County is now expected to release finalized reassessments in 2024. In New Castle County, the plan is to mail new assessments to property owners starting in November 2024, using these values to calculate new tax bills starting in 2025. In Kent, notification of new values was scheduled to be mailed last month, with the assessment appeal filing deadline of March 15, 2024, and the property tax bills going out later in 2024.

Schedule so far: Property tax reassessment process extended in Sussex County because of staff shortages

Bringing the system in line with the law meant counties had to reassess property values to tie them closer to their present market value. Then, both school districts and counties must dial back their corresponding tax rates to bring in the same money — or in some situations, a bit more — as before.

The common wisdom, reported in 2020, was that likely a third of tax bills could go up, a third could stay the same and another third could go down. For his part, Wilson expects some taxpayers to see their bills rise as much as 10%.

School districts are capped on how much additional revenue can be generated from reassessment. Per state law, districts are capped at 10% in additional revenue.

“When people get their reassessment notice, they will have some sticker shock,” said Mitch Wilson, senior manager with Invoke Tax Partners’ property tax office. “Because they’re cognitive of their current assessment, what it’s been forever and ever. You’re going to see a change.”

Background: Judge rules Delaware property tax system unconstitutional; major changes to residents' bills could follow

Breakdown: Delaware's outdated system for property taxes, explained

Got a story? Contact Kelly Powers at or (231) 622-2191, and follow her on Twitter @kpowers01.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Appoquinimink, Brandywine schools are headed to tax referendum votes