On April 6, the Darlington School District will asking its constituents to approve a referendum asking to exceed the revenue limit by $1.9 million per year for five years. The amount the district is asking is the same amount that was approved on a previous referendum and is currently in effect. The board is asking the district to allow them to continue with what they are currently doing for the next five years with no increase.
Public schools receive the vast majority of their revenue from state aid and local property taxes. The amount each district obtains depends on the total value of the property, and how many students are in the district. Sixty-three percent of Darlington’s revenue comes from the state, which equates to about every dollar spent by the district they will get back 63 cents the following year. That amount has a big effect on what the referendum will do to taxes.
With so much of the revenue coming from the state, keeping the referendum amount flat will almost certainly results in a decrease in the tax rate.
There is uncertainty at the state level as to what amount of taxes they will bring in over the next couple of years. If nothing changes, the continuation of the referendum as proposed would allow the district to maintain its operations as well as take care of every facility need that is needed in the future.
The district has already addressed facility needs in DEMS LED lighting, epoxy floors in the halls in both DEMS and the high school and redoing the high school parking lot. The district is currently working on obtaining a FEMA grant this summer. The FEMA grant is for a gymnasium that would double as a tornado shelter. When it is not being used as a shelter, it would be used for much needed gymnasiums space.
If the district does get the grant this summer, there may be a possibility of seeing a referendum in the future to pay for the districts part of the project. But if that does happen, the district plans on structuring the request in a way that would not increase the tax rate.
The project is estimated to cost around $6 million but with the grant, the government would pay $5 million of the project. The district would need to pay for the items within the structure such as basketball hoops, flooring, furniture, but the grant would pay for the vast majority of it.
When calculating the schools finances for future years, it is assumed that an additional $100 will be added per student to the revenue limit each year. That has been happening for the last 10 years. It is also projected that enrollment will slowly increase, again something that has been happening in the district over the last few years. Another projection would be an increase by five percent in health insurance and an increase of two percent in staff salaries and 2.5 percent in property values.
The district is confident that with the revenue from the state and if the referendum is to continue at its current level, tax rates will continue to drop.