of Education on Dec.19 approved a new facilities-use policy and
fee schedule which its lawyer said will bring the district into
compliance with a state law enacted last June. Reworked several
times and discussed in exquisite detail for nearly an hour at
the board meeting, the policy apparently settles the
long-standing problem of how much compensation private swimming
associations should pay to use Brandywine pools.
board formally adopted a final budget for this fiscal year --
which includes provisions for complying with Governor Ruth Ann
Minner's request to give back $925, 799 in state money to which
the district is entitled -- vice president Nancy Doorey declared
that, as a result of the reported outlook for state financing in
fiscal 2004, "we may have to have conversations about going back
to the public [for a tax increase authorization] sooner than we
financing is the largest source of school revenue.
resolution of the swimming pools question led to one last
significant amendment to the proposed policy before the board
voted unanimously to approve it. That exempts the pools from the
list of district 'equipment' which selected organizations can
use without having to pay any fee. As a result, they now have to
pay at least the servicing cost.
It is not
clear why the new state law defines swimming pools as
'equipment' along with such things as overhead projectors,
gymnasium matting and the like, but lawyer Ellen Cooper told the
board that it had to find a compelling "governmental reason" for
treating them differently from that other stuff. They finally
did so by deciding that extra maintenance that would be required
for outsider use of the pools would siphon off significantly
more money from the district's primary mission of educating
children than running a projector. Jeffrey Edmison, executive
director of the support services division, who had the
assignment to dot the 'i's and cross the 't's in the policy,
said he wasn't going to attempt to assign a figure to the
some more debate, the board decided to leave it up to Edmison to
decide whether whether "we should pull the plug" and drain the
pools after the academic year ends -- and thereby make them
unavailable to any user during summer months -- or keep them
operating against the possibility that the fees most likely
users would be required to pay would more than offset costs and
thereby generate some modest profit for the district.
apparently solved a long-standing dilemma, which previously
reached the level of being questioned by the state auditor of
accounts, over whether private swimming clubs should be allowed
access to the pools while paying virtually nothing. His
solution, which the board bought without hesitation, was to make
any outfit which charges participants in its program more than
$100 s year ineligible for inclusion on the list of
organizations entitled to free use of facilities.
effectively eliminates Team Delaware, whose use of pools on a
preferred basis, has been widely questioned. Earlier in the
meeting, Jerry Martin, of the Council of Civic Organizations of
Brandywine Hundred, presented the board with a resolution the
council passed asking the district to charge all 'non-exempt'
pool users fees that would at least cover costs other than what
would be incurred by servicing the pools for school use.
process of devising the participation-fee stipulation, Edmison
significantly pared down an earlier list of about 25 outside
organizations so entitled to five. In addition to those charging
fees, several previous users were dropped because they did not
respond to a request for information. Edmison warned the board
that "when the word gets out" about who is not on the list "my
phone and yours will start ringing." Those excluded can apply to
the board to be placed on it.
Presently, the list includes Boy, Girl and Cub Scouts,
Brandywine Little League, St. Edmond's Academy and St. Mary
Magdalen athletic programs and the Wilmington Department of
Parks & Recreation. Also listed are district-related
organizations such as parent, and activity-sponsor clubs and
eligible for the freebee list or to use facilities at cost, the
policy said, an organization must be nonprofit and serve
children or youth. All others will pay according to a fee
schedule which is above cost and, Edmison acknowledged, was put
together rather arbitrarily.
will be required to pay $15 per application to cover the cost of
processing and scheduling, which will be handled in the district
office by an assigned hourly-rated employee. The fee will be the
same whether the request is for a single use or several
scheduled over a year. Present contracts will be honored until
their stated expiration dates or Aug. 30, whichever comes first.
budget was approved by a 5-1 vote, with board member Thomas
Lapinski dissenting. He later said he did so because the
document presented to the board "did not tell me enough about
how federal funds will be spent so that I could see they're
being spent properly." Chief financial officer David Blowman
said he would provide that information. :Lapinski, however,
still cast his negative vote. Member Ralph Ackerman did not
attend the meeting.
previously reported by Delaforum, the budget calls for spending
$98.5 million with projected revenue of $99.7 million, which
will leave an anticipated carryover surplus $1.3 million when
the fiscal year ends on June 30. (The mathematical disparity is
the result of rounding.)
said that, contrary to previous indications, the spending plan
does not shortchange the district's long-term strategic plan.
"We're moving ahead with the plan," he said, adding that
budgeted spending this fiscal year is mostly for developing
components of the plan and therefore lower than it will be when
the plan reaches the impementation stage.
with board members that the plan should go forward despite the
district's and the state's tight fiscal situations. "The
strategic plan is not an addition or a luxury," he said. "It is
a very significant commitment."
ranking official in the state Department of Education, Blowman
said the present outlook in Dover is that Governor Minner will
have to be even more parsimonious in drafting her spending
recommendations to the General Assembly for the fiscal year
which being July 1 than she has been in cutting this year's
budget to meet a projected shortfall in state revenue. "It's a
tough environment," Blowman said.
Doorey to suggest that putting the strategic plan into effect
could require setting an operating tax rate higher than the
ceiling of 98.2˘ per $100 of assessed property value that voters
approved last April. The district said then that it would phase
in the increase over five years and not seek to raise the
ceiling before them. That promise, however, was specifically
conditioned on not encountering "unforeseen circumstances." The
present operating tax rate is 95.6˘ and the total rate is
said there may be room for additional cost cutting -- she
suggested the district's share of student transportation as a
possiblity -- but added that "12 months from now, we're going to
have to get serious about holding those [tax increase]
matters before the board:
advisory committee recommended a significant increase in the
amount the district spends to maintain its buildings and other
physical assets. Pegging the allocation for that purpose at $1.5
million less than what a comparable-size company in industry
would budget, the committee called for bringing district
spending up to industry standards over a 10-year period. The
committee did say that Brandywine's maintenance spending was not
out of line with what other public school districts spend.
approved a three-year labor contract with the Food Service
Workers Association, which represents 95 cafeteria employees. It
calls for raises of 55˘, 60˘ and 65˘ a hour in
each of the coming years in the district's share of their pay.
The state pays most of their wages. That is roughly
proportionate to raises given teachers and paraprofessionals in
their new contracts. As it did with those, the board voted
without disclosing any details of the agreement in public
session but, unlike what happened with the earlier approvals,
the district provided a copy of the contract immediately after
the board meeting.
approved an undisclosed performance evaluation of Superintendent
of administrators' contracts was not brought up nor mentioned
during the public session. Because of a requirement that anyone
whose contract will not be renewed at the end of the academic
year be given six months' notice, school boards usually deal
with that matter at their December meetings.
approve -- again without discussion or disclosing what was
involved -- what Cooper described only as "the personnel issue
that was discussed in executive session."