Red Clay Consolidated School District is waiting to hear whether the state will fund a request for $265 million to address maintenance costs and improvement needs in 27 buildings.
The district’s school board unanimously voted in its August meeting to submit a certificate of necessity to the Department of Education.
“This certificate of necessity is absolutely needed in our district,” said board member Kathy Thompson. “I know we’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting, and I really hope that we are able to get this this time because our buildings are old.”
“The Facilities Committee in the district does a great job of maintaining older facilities, but when you look throughout the state, there are many districts with brand new buildings,” Thompson said. “We’re just maintaining ours as they are. I hope we do all we can to ensure that we get some kind of traction this time.”
“Even our newest building is starting to age relative to the new construction that’s taken place across the state,” said Superintendent Dorrell Green.
The submitted document helps the Education Department certify that the project is necessary and also helps them set cost limits for the project.
Jose Matthews, a Red Clay board member who works on the district’s facilities committee, is optimistic that the decision will be different than it was a year ago.
In 2021, Red Clay submitted a similar certificate of necessity. Originally, they were asking for half a billion dollars.
“$500 million was such a big number and hard for all of us to really swallow and grapple with,” Matthews said. “So what we ended up doing was we actually cut that number by around 50%.”
Even after chopping their asking price in half, Red Clay’s $250 million request in 2021 was rejected.
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“Initially, there was not much information provided as to why we were rejected,” he said. “Communication was very, very brief with the state.”
After Green pushed for more answers, the Education Department essentially told them it was too much of a financial obligation at the time, and encouraged Red Clay to reapply this year.
The extra $15 million Red Clay is asking for is reflective of the high-levels of inflation across the country.
The district spent about a year going to each building and evaluating the needs and subsequent costs of repairs required for each.
What does Red Clay need the money for?
They determined that $265 million is needed to address building needs with the following:
- Building envelope
- Roofing systems
- Exterior walls
- Interior construction and finishes
- HVAC systems
- Science lab and kitchen hoods
- Electrical power/distribution
- Lighting systems
- Plumbing systems
- Fire protection/life safety systems
- Hazardous abatement
- Security systems
- Exterior building/site lighting
- Sidewalks/building perimeter
An Education Department spokeswoman said the request is being reviewed and Red Clay will be notified of a decision by Oct. 28.
The certification of necessity outlined the following costs for different projects:
- Deferred maintenance: $190,555,103 (71.9%)
- Capital improvement: $53,588,017 (20.2%)
- Programmatic: $20,856,880 (7.9%)
Red Clay also outlined what money was needed for different systems within a building.
They identified those costs as:
- 21st Century teaching and learning: $24,964,087 (9.4%)
- Accessibility, health and wellness: $29,168,272 (11.0%)
- Building safety and secure entrances: $8,896,879 (3.4%)
- Exterior enclosure: $64,527,457 (24.3%)
- HVAC, electrical and plumbing: $116,112,797 (43.8%)
- Interior construction: $12,214,899 (4.6%)
- Site improvements: $9,115,609 (3.4%)
The district asked for the $265 million to be allocated over four years.
The board assumes that the money will come with a 60% state/40% local split of costs for projects.
“That roof leak that we have is now being fixed with a band-aid rather than getting the roof replacement that we need,” Matthews told Delaware LIVE News. “That foundation issue is being patched up with a band-aid in a short-term fix while it continues to grow and creak and become a much more expensive and much more broader issue.”
If the request for $265 million is approved, the board will hold a referendum to allow taxpayers to vote to increase taxes for the local match.
The amount of a tax hike has not been set yet, but Red Clay’s Community Finance Review Committee will have to decide on a number before a referendum.
The referendum vote is expected to take place in February 2023.
If it fails, Delaware code allows Red Clay to try again a few months later.
If the referendum fails a second time, the state will withdraw the offer.
“It’s all or nothing,” Matthews said.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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