Shockley said his estimate was based on a straight-line
projection of current spending of local money for operations
adjusted only for moderate inflation. It factors in annual
increases of 2% to 3% in salaries, which are by far the largest
item in the district's budget.
have two choices: You can either cut services or go to the
community for a referendum," he said. "This is what
would happen if we did nothing and just continued our present
shortfalls, which the projection shows more than doubling each
year, are theoretical because school districts are not permitted
to operate at deficits not covered by previous surpluses.
presenting a five-year income-and-expenditure projection to the
board at a workshop meeting on Dec. 3, Shockley said the
district is likely to finish this year with an $841,000
local-funds balance but would find itself in the hole to the
tune of $1.2 million a year later.
eliminate that size deficit without having to resort to staff
and other cutbacks, he said, would require an increase next year
of about 14¢ in the present 76.4¢ operations tax ceiling. That
would have to be followed in subsequent years by increases of
2¢, 1.4¢, nothing, and 3¢, respectively. The tax rate is
applied to each $100 of assessed property value.
widely assumed that Brandywine in late winter or early spring
will go to referendum to seek a tax increase. However, board
president Nancy Doorey has publicly insisted that that decision
has not yet been made.
Shockley did not make a point of it in his presentation, there
was an implication that the district might look to increase the
tax in annual steps rather than levy the full rate immediately,
as has been common practice in the past in Brandywine and other
present operations tax rate has been at the ceiling since just
after the last operating-tax referendum in 1994 and is the
largest component of the district's total 98.4¢ tax rate. Of
the operating rate, 32.6¢ is levied by Brandywine and the rest
is a county-wide school tax whose revenue is split among the
districts in proportion to their enrollments. In addition,
Brandywine this year is charging an additional 3¢ in operations
tax to finance construction of running tracks at its three high
schools. That one-time tax was authorized in a capital-spending
referendum last May.
presented the board with a final operating budget for the
current fiscal year which, as previously reported by Delaforum,
projects revenue from all sources totaling just over $108
million. Proposed spending is put at $111.6 million.
A 9.5% increase in expenditures over last year, is entirely the
result of capital improvements and resultant debt service
authorized by voters last May, he said.
expenditures are down slightly "as a result of continuing
to budget in a way that will not adversely impact students
directly," he said.
there were indications in other contexts at the meeting of
additional pressure on Brandywine's budget.
reported that the bill for liability insurance coverage has
jumped from $60,000 to $107,000. In part, he said, that reflects
the district's poor claims experience during the past couple of
years, but it is mostly the result of the financial impact of
the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
"That has turned the insurance business upside down. A lot
of people are not writing that kind of coverage," he said.
not identify which company, selected by an insurance borkerage,
will write Brandywine's policy.
previously reported decline in enrollment resulted in the loss
of state support for 22 teaching positions. The district had
only expected to lose the equivalent of 9½. Shockley said there
has not yet been an analysis of why the enrollment projection
was so far off and where the students went.
pretty scary to be losing 400 kids and I don't think that should
be happening," board member Mark Huxsoll said. Doorey
suggested that there be direct follow up to determine the
reasons to the extent the loss has been to charter and nonpublic
spent much of the meeting discussing the content of a 'vision
and priorities' document now being drafted. While it does not
yet include cost estimates, superintendent Bruce Harter said a
rough estimate would place pricetags of $3 million and $5
million, respectively, on the first two years of implementation.
noted, however, that a selective opinion survey conducted
recently as part of the development process found considerable
support for 'aggressive' recruitment of teachers, including
willingness to pay higher salaries to attract top job
surprised to see the survey results ... telling us the public
puts high value on making sure our teacher salaries are competitive
in the region, not just in Delaware," Doorey said. "To
make any credible difference would make a major hit on local tax