The Milford School District announced at a sparsely attended Board of Education meeting Monday that it would be seeking a referendum on the question of increasing property taxes to finance the revitalization and expansion of a historic school property.
If approved, the school district intends to revitalize the currently vacant Milford Middle School building on Lakeview Avenue.
It was not immediately clear what effect a successful referendum would have on a property owner’s tax bills.
The site has been vacant for nearly six years after being closed for health and safety reasons.
The plans call for a renovation of the historic portion of the building, which was built in 1929.
The more recent additions would be demolished, making way for new construction better suited to a 21st century learning environment.
The renovated building would house the district’s 5th and 6th graders who currently attend Milford Central Academy.
Presently, the Milford Central Academy hosts grades 5-8, but shares a campus with Milford High School.
Overcrowding has become a problem at the two schools, according to Milford School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Dickerson.
“If we are able to have a 5/6 grade school in the future, Milford Central Academy would only house grades 7 and 8, relieving the overcrowding in that school. We could also then utilize Milford Central Academy to help reduce some overcrowding at our high school as the schools share a campus and a hallway,” Dickerson said.
In 2019, a committee composed of community members, parents, former educators, teachers and board members held public hearings to determine the fate of the property.
The public overwhelmingly requested that the property be used for educational purposes.
With the Board of Education’s approval, the school district sought a Certificate of Necessity to build a 1,000-student 5th and 6th grade school.
The Department of Education issued the district a Certificate of Necessity in Nov. 2020, but the school board opted to postpone the request for a referendum in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The estimated cost for the project is $57,270,453 with the state contributing $42,380,185 and the district paying the remaining $14,890,318. Each year the project is delayed could add 5% to the cost.
In a presentation presented by the board, the district emphasized the ‘community aspects’ of the proposed project. According to the presentation, if approved, the project would:
- Utilize and revitalize existing district resources and property
- Provide opportunity to re-evaluate current facilities and seek increased efficiencies and best use of space district-wide
- create open recreational space, large recreational gymnasium and auditorium
- Provide classroom space in center of city for educational and workforce development partnerships
- Ensure the dedicated Milford 11 historical plaque would remain at the school site
The board voted to hold the referendum on Wednesday, Oct. 27.
Dickerson said that by holding the referendum in the fall, the district would have “more time to present the project to the community and answer any questions the community may have.”
Asked whether the amount quoted for the project would be sufficient given the near-universal rise in materials costs, the district’s chief financial officer, Dr. Sara Croce, explained that a process exists wherein the district could request additional funds from the state to cover differences related to construction costs.
The board unanimously approved a motion to move forward with the referendum.
Charlie is a staff writer for Delaware LIVE covering Delaware legislative and business news. Previously, Charlie worked for the Delaware State Senate. He was raised in Sussex County before attending Duquesne University in Pittsburgh where he studied political science and philosophy.
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