referendum was scheduled for Mar. 6, 2002, at which residents
will be asked to authorize borrowing $78.1 million through the
sale of long-term bonds to finance the local 40% share of the
cost. The state will be asked to finance the other 60%.
price tag for the plan, which provides for improvements at all
schools and construction of a new 600-student elementary school
in the Hockessin-North Star area, is $195.3 million. Both that
figure and the local share would be state records for capital
financing of schools in any district.
financial officer Richard Moretti told the board at its meeting
on Dec. 12 that it would be "completely unrealistic"
to expect the state to agree to provide the nearly $18.5 million
Red Clay had asked for a month earlier to cover costs in the
first year of a five-year program. Instead, he said, the
district hopes Delaware Department of Education will agree to
put up $3.3 million to address its top two priorities --
acquiring property for the new school and air conditioning
Highlands Elementary so that school can begin a form of
year-around schooling in September, 2002.
other project has been pushed back a year. As things now stand,
the program will begin in the fiscal year which begins next July
1 and continue through the year which ends on June 30,
agreed to the revised plan and set the referendum date by
unanimous vote without any substantive discussion.
said he has been in continuing touch with DelDOE officials about
the situation and added that he understands the problem they
face in a weak economy. Because the state finances capital
spending partly by selling bonds and partly out of the general
fund, it is anticipated that fiscal belt-tightening will
severely impact how much money is available to spread over
added, the district is ready, if voters approve the local share
of the financing, to appeal to the General Assembly to get
authorization for the priority projects. The legislature has the
final say on the governor's capital budget. "The bond bill
is flexible. It's not decided until June," he said.
DelDOE has been unresponsive to Delaforum requests for comment,
an official of the state budget office said earlier that the
bottom line on capital spending in the next fiscal year will be
determined by estimates the Delaware Economic and Financial
Advisory Council comes up with next April and May.
said that the Mar. 6 referendum date will give Red Clay
officials and supporters an opportunity to "get our story
out to the public" on the need for additional student
capacity and improvements to school buildings. If this proposal
is rejected, as an earlier version of essentially the same plan
was last April, "the board is going to have to make some
tough decisions about what the community really wants."
warned the board that that financial restraints could continue
into a second year, but did not speculate on what the result of
that might be.