have two very credible referenda behind us. We told the
community what we did and we did it," Charles Landry said at an
inaugural meeting of a referendum advisory committee on Mar. 7.
Although Cyndi Lehm, co-chair of referendum steering committee,
which gave rise to the advisory committee, pointed out that the
school board has not yet set a date for the referendum, a
printed form seeking to enlist volunteers, gave it as May 24, a
board is expected to formally approve seeking voter
authorization to borrow money through a bond issue to finance
the district's share of the cost to renovate three schools --
P.S. du Pont Intermediate and Hanby and Springer Middle --
and construct two new buildings to house Brandywood and
Lancashire Elementary as well as the Bush Early Education
Center. That will constitute the third part of a three-phase
building modernization program begun in the mid-1990s. Also
planned is a new depot for the district's bus fleet and a
district share of the cost would be $63,969,162, or 45.8% of the
total cost, $139,382,078. That proportion is greater the 40%
that public school districts in Delaware usually put up to match
a 60% state share.
Superintendent Bruce Harter said the district is still hopeful
it can convince Delaware Department of Education officials to
come closer to 60% by raising the present maximum cost per
square foot of new construction that the state will support.
stands now, the district will have to pay 54.3% of the $14
million estimated cost of a new Lancashire and 53.9% of an
estimated $18.4 million for a new Brandywood. Brandywood will
cost more because that building will have an additional wing in
which to house Bush.
said that exceeding the state's per-square-foot maximum will
cost an additional $7 million to be financed over the proposed
25-year life of the bonds. He expressed confidence that "our
taxpayers will pay a little bit more for quality buildings that
will last 35 to 50 years."
authorizing the sale of bonds, district residents agree to an
annual levy to cover debt service. The present debt service
component of Brandywine $1.2785 tax rate is 12.6¢. The average
debt service tax increase to finance the new bonds would be 11¢.
That would peak in the first five or so years and decline after
that. The tax rate is applied to each $100 of assessed property
Because of the level of state support in Delaware, property
taxes here are considerably lower than in most states, he said.
previously reported, it is also planned to go before the voters
with at least two additional proposals which would be financed
by short-term add-ons to the operating tax component of the tax
rate. They would authorize spending $3.7 million on athletic
facilities and $3.5 million to improve safety and security in
all the district's buildings.
told the advisory committee meeting that the district will
commission an independent study later this year to look into the
future of school bus transportation in Brandywine. That could
include 'out-sourcing' some or all of it. Harter indicated he
does not presently favor that and Jeff Viar, the district's
transportation supervisor, said he does not. Brandywine is the
only public school district in the state which operates all its
said that private bus contractors bid on routes they can cover
profitably and leave those that are more costly to service to
the districts. Savings that might achieve would be relatively
small and come at the expense of control of the system and
supervision of drivers, he said.
said it has been decided that students will be assigned to
'holding schools' while their buildings are being renovated.
Those from P.S., Hanby and Springer will be housed in the
high-rise Burnett building in Wilmington. Brandywood and
Lancashire students will go to the present Lancashire building.
The P.S. kindergarten will be relocated to Mount Pleasant
means that the Burnett building will be in use at least until
2010, after which its fate will be determined. He said the plan
is to demolish both the Bush building and the present
administrative office building in Radnor Green and lease those
sites to New Castle County government to be used and maintained
as parks. In that way, the district retains ownership of the
properties against the possibility they may be needed some time
in the future. The administrative staff will be moved to the
Mount Pleasant Elementary building near Bellefonte, Harter said.
Project manager John Read said that it was more costly to do the
work while the schools were in use, which is what happened at
both Concord High and Mount Pleasant Elementary. The work was
done at night, at premium wage rates, and workers were paid
those same rates while spending the hour or so that was
necessary to clean up at the end of the shift so the building
could be used during the day.
said it is intended that the referendum campaign will be
financed by donations -- from both businesses and individuals --
rather than with the district's public funds. The campaign will
include paid advertising, telephone calls to all district
residents, lawn signs, public appearances, and special events at
all the schools.
is going to be a big effort. It is going to take a lot of people
to get it done properly, said John Skrobot, the steering
committee's other co-chair. "We're going to hit the heart
strings of the community."