proposed tax increase
School District is generally expected to try again to obtain
voter approval to increase the operations component of its
property-tax rate for the coming fiscal year, but the scope of a
second referendum was open to question in the wake of the
surprise rejection of a proposed two-component 38.2¢ increase.
"The population of the Brandywine
School District has spoken. ... The board will come together and
decide what to do next," Craig Gilbert, president of the school
board, told Delaforum minutes after the Department of Elections
posted results of the referendum.
As a group of about 50 obviously
dejected people -- mostly members of the district administrative
staff who had gathered in the Brandywine High School cafeteria
to witness the tabulation of votes -- was dispersing,
superintendent James Scanlon assured them, "We'll put together a
David Blowman, the district's
chief financial officer,
noted that late June is the earliest that state law
school superintendent James Scanlon (left photo)
reads results of the referendum to supporters
gathered at Brandywine High School. Among those in
attendence were (right photo) board members Mark
Huxsoll, Craig Gilbert and Nancy Doorey.
permits another try. The board
has until July 12 to set a tax rate for the levy that is due by
Some 9,000 residents turned out
to vote on the tax proposals on Apr. 24 and rejected them by a
53%-to-47% margin -- a ratio sufficiently wide to be regarded as
"We had expected [the result] to
be close," Scanlon said.
Most observers believed, in light
of Brandywine's past record of overwhelming support at tax
referendums, that the proposal would carry.
Two years ago, 73% of nearly
2,000 fewer voters approved bond financing for the third
and final phase of the district's building renovation program
and in 2002 an operations-tax increase garnered a 75% favorable
Gilbert thanked supporters for a
dedicated effort in support of the tax increase, which would
have provided for an ambitious five-year strategic plan,
including a tuition-free full-day kindergarten program, as well
as improved building maintenance and restoration of relatively
comfortable end-of-year budget balances.
However, in terms of the general
economy, "things were very different this time," Gilbert said. A
proposal which indicated a slightly more than 25% increase in
the overall tax rate was being considered in the context of an
all-but-certain 17% boost in the county government tax rate and
sharp increases in the cost of gasoline and electricity. "The
school tax is the only tax [on which] the people get to vote,"
Both Gilbert and Scanlon said any
new effort to secure voter approval will follow one or perhaps
two community consultation sessions.
The alternative to a successful
second bid, Blowman said, will necessarily involve sharp
across-the-board cuts in school programs. He previously
estimated the aggregate amount of the cuts at about $4 million.