incredibly responsible proposal. You've given us something that
is very easy to sell," board president Nancy Doorey told
superintendent Bruce Harter after the board's unanimous vote at
its business meeting on Jan. 17. Several members of the audience
rose to applaud the action.
presentation not substantially changed from ones he made two
weeks earlier to a board workshop and the district's finance
committee, Harter said the higher tax is needed to stave off a
serious budget crisis resulting from the district's having spend
down its surplus reserve, finance elements of its long-range
strategic plan and meet the rising cost of basic operations.
district last sought, and obtained, approval for a tax increase
in the spring of 1994, following an unsuccessful attempt in late
with approving the holding of a referendum, the board agreed to
deviate from usual practice in Delaware school districts by
imposing the higher rates in steps, starting in the fiscal year
which begins July 1. It also charged the district finance
committee to independently review and make a recommendation
about what rates should be set in subsequent years. Depending on
enrollment, income from grants and other factors, those rates
could be lower than what is presently projected.
making a commitment that we will not set a tax rate higher than
what we actually need," Doorey said.
in the approved proposal was a pledge not to seek another
increase for at least five years.
taxes, expressed as an amount for each $100 of assessed property
value, consist of several components. The total operating rate,
in turn, is the sum of the rate established by the former New
Castle County district and rates established by the four local
districts established in the early 1980s. The county rate is 46.8¢
and Brandywine's current rate is 32.6¢. Under the plan approved
by the board, the latter would go to a maximum of 48.8¢ in
fiscal 2002-03 and 48.2¢, 48.9¢, 50.2¢ and 51.4¢, respectively,
in subsequent years.
addition, voters last year authorized the sale of bonds to
finance building renovation and modernization resulting in a
capital spending tax to finance debt service going from the
present 5.13¢ to a projected 17.97¢ over the five-year period.
The board also imposes taxes to finance minor capital spending,
technology and tuition for special-education students it cannot
accommodate. Revenue from those taxes cannot be diverted to
total tax rate, now 97.03¢, is thus projected to climb to
$1.2867 by fiscal 2006-07 if voters approve a higher operating
seeking public support, the board and district administration
are looking for backing for a strategic plan developed with
extensive community participation over the past 14 months. The
plan was formally adopted by the board in a separate vote before
it turned to the referendum proposal.
elements are directly related, Harter said, although the
estimated cost of implementing the plan will amount to only
about 2% of the district's total budget. Both he and Doorey said
that is tantamount to asking the public to pay for improvements
that the community told the district it wants.
not be making a case for an operating [tax] referendum without
the strategic plan behind it," Harter said.
component of the is recruiting, training and retaining teachers.
Early-childhood education, more rigorous academic programs and
alternative education are the other elements. Harter said 70% of
strategic-plan financing will come from shifting existing
the plan, unlike previous long-range planning, comes with stated
targets and requires periodic reporting on progress toward
achieving them. It also will be subject to at least annual
revision so that it remains viable for the ensuing five years.
referendum proposal also included a provision to cut
administrative and other costs by just over $1 million and to
establish a fund for preventive maintenance that goes beyond
what the state provides for that purpose.
In a related move, the board
approved establishment of three new committees of volunteers
from the community. One will be charged with making
recommendations concerning the district's surplus property,
including the long-idle Channin and Old Mill Lane school
buildings and the site of the parking lot serving the public
library in Talleyville. The other panels will advise the
district concerning cost containment and building maintenance.