Superintendent Bruce Harter told a
public hearing on July 8 that he will recommend a local current
expense rate of 48.8¢
when the board reconvenes in a special session on July 9 to
formally vote on the rate. In addition, Brandywine property
owners will pay and the district will share in the proceeds from
a countywide operating tax rate of
carried over from when what
are now four districts formed a consolidated district covering
the county north of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.
The other components of the tax
rate finance debt service, tuition for children requiring
specialized education outside the district, minor capital
expenditures and technology expenses. Taxes are collected by New
Castle County government and are due Sept. 30.
Delaforum previously reported, the 21% tax increase over last
fiscal year has the approval of the district's volunteer finance
committee. Harter said it also has been indorsed by an advisory
group made up of representatives of area businesses and leaders
of civic organizations as well as the Financial Review Taskforce
formed nearly two years ago to help guide the district out of
the fiscal problems traced to its former administration.
there seemed to be no objection to Harter's recommendation among
board members, only one went so far as to commit himself to
going along with it. Thomas Lapinski said the overwhelming
majority of constituent telephone calls he has received favor
not exceeding the promised ceiling.
president Nancy Doorey asked Harter to provide the board with a
report on the likely budgetary impact of the new contract being
negotiated with the teachers' union in a closed-door executive
session before the board votes on the tax rate. "I want to make
sure we don't fall behind in terms of [paying] competitive
salaries," she said.
Only one of the eight members of the
public who spoke at the hearing directly addressed the tax rate
issue. "We don't want to see cuts for our children," said
Jonathan Husband, a parent. "Most of the district supports you.
We showed that to you months ago (by voting for higher
taxes in the referendum) and it (support) is still there now,"
revealed that Brandywine squeaked through the fiscal year which
ended June 30 with a paper-thin $860,000 balance from its $100
million budget. He said the only thing that enabled the district
to have any money figuratively in the bank at this point is the
fact that interim financial officer William Bentz 'found'
$996,000 in an interest-bearing account with the state which
nobody realized existed. Brandywine will have to borrow from the
state to meet payroll and other obligations until tax revenue
begins to flow in in mid-autumn.
said he will not be able to submit a preliminary budget for this
year until September but thought that, although tight, it will
see the district through the year and allow it to emerge from it
with a sufficient reserve "to keep us out of where we are now in
the summer of 2003."
about his confidence level about that, he said, "I feel
reasonable confident; I am not absolutely confident."
doing so will require "right-sizing" the organization and
perhaps deferring parts of some elements in the district's
strategic plan. He defined the former as reducing the number of
"non-instructional personnel" such as counselors, assistants to
principals, discipline interventionists, secretaries and