Unofficial results show that Appoquinimink School District's referendum failed.

Appo referendum fails, preliminary voting results show

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

Unofficial results show that Appoquinimink School District's referendum failed.

Unofficial results show that Appoquinimink School District’s referendum failed.

In a narrow outcome, the residents of Appoquinimink School District voted against all three questions on the ballot of Tuesday’s referendum, which would have raised taxes $435 per year for the average homeowner if successful.

“Obviously there is a lot of disappointment in the room tonight,” said Appo Superintendent Matt Burrows in a statement after the preliminary results were made public Tuesday night.

The district was also holding its monthly school board meeting Tuesday night, and in the last five minutes, Burrows made the announcement that the referendum had failed. His comments were brief, and he expressed his disappointment before the district released his statement following the meeting.

Burrows stated the district is growing and will continue to grow. Appo’s enrollment has grown by 17% in the last five years, making it the fastest-growing district in the state,

“Without support for new buildings, we know we will have overcrowded classrooms and an increased need for modular learning spaces,” he said. “This isn’t what we want for our students.

In his statement, he pointed out the majority of this effort to raise local revenue was “focused on our amazing educators and staff.”

He said without the additional funds, Appo can’t stay competitive with other districts.

“Teachers are our greatest resource, and we can’t afford to keep losing them to other districts,” he said. “The voters have spoken and now we must continue to operate with even less. There’s no question that our students, teachers, and families all suffer as a result of this decision.”

RELATED: Appo referendum Dec. 12; would increase taxes $435 yearly

The election results are unofficial, and will need to be certified by the state in the coming days.

Here are the results thus far:

Section I: 3,243 votes AGAINST; 2,989 votes FOR

Approval to raise local taxes 43 cents per $100 of assessed property value for current operating expenses, including educator compensation, safety and security, operating expenses due to growth and technology.

 Section II: 3,303 votes AGAINST; 2,963 votes FOR

Approval to raise local taxes three cents per $100 of assessed property value for capital projects, including a middle school and a high school on the district’s Summit Campus and an elementary school on Green Giant Road.

Section III: 2,583 votes AGAINST; 2,577 votes FOR

Approval to raise local taxes one cent per $100 of assessed property value for safety improvements and a bus lot at A.G. Waters Middle School.

Delaware Code allows districts to hold a referendum again if the first one fails, and Burrows indicated that the district will try again in spring 2024.

Board President Michelle Wall pointed out in the board meeting that the state share — which would account for 77% of project cots for the three new buildings — will be revoked if the referendum fails a second time, which would make those projects virtually impossible to complete with local funds alone.

In Tuesday’s funding report release event — in which the American Institutes for Research recommended the state changes its outdated funding formula and pumps up to $1 billion more into education — speakers urged Appo residents to vote in the referendum.

RELATED: Adding $500M+ more into education likely matter for legislature

At Appo’s board meeting Tuesday night, board member Richard Forsten cited the funding report and urged the state to make changes.

“I would call upon the Department of Education and the Office of Management and Budget and our legislators to look long and hard at adjusting that funding formula,” he said. “We’re lucky because we manage our money so well, and we have excess funds… other districts aren’t necessarily going to have that money, and the message to the school district is ‘okay we didn’t give you enough money to build your school to begin with.'”

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