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June  5,  2007

Brandywine schools staff
savors voters' endorsement

"What a difference six weeks makes," an elated Brandywine schools superintendent declared minutes after Department of Elections officials posted the completed tally of results from the district's tax referendum.

The second time around, voters approved an increase in the operations component of the property-tax rate of 27 for each $100 of assessed property value, of which 25 will  be imposed in the coming fiscal year

and an additional penny in each of the following two years. That translates into a hike of about 18% on the total $1.4925 current total rate.

The school board will set the actual fiscal 2008 rate, which also will include previously authorized capital spending and other components, in July with tax bills due at the end of September.

Superintendent James Scanlon told school employees and some people from the community actively involved in school affairs who gathered in Brandywine High School to witness the vote count that the favorable result on June 4 stemmed from a concerted effort during a short period of time after voters on Apr. 24 rejected a proposal for a larger tax

Superintendent James Scanlon (in blue shirt) and board president Craig Gilbert exchange congratulations after receiving results of the tax referendum.

 increase.

"It was just an excellent, excellent effort on everybody's part," he said. "It shows there is support out there for our schools and our programs."

Craig Gilbert, president of the school board, said that "the community owes a great debt of gratitude" to the referendum steering committee and the earlier committee which produced the five-year strategic plan that contained initiatives, including tax-supported full-day kindergartens, to be financed by about 16% of the proceeds from the tax increase. "Now I look for turning the same energy into the classrooms," he said.

Gilbert's term on the board expires June 30. He did not seek re-election and will be succeeded by Patricia Hearn.

The tax proposal was approved by a decisive 54.6%-to-45.4% margin. There were 13,889 votes cast by half again as many voters as went to the polls in April. The 7,584 favorable votes this time was 75% higher. That indicates a successful effort to rally parents and others inclined to be supportive despite what

James Scanlon and his wife, Beth Trapani, applaud as Department of Elections officials post the completed tally.

Scanlon tells district employees and supporters from the community that layoff notices will be rescinded as soon as the board officially approves doing so.

Scanlon and others previously referred to as 'misinformation' widely disseminated by radio and print media.

Scanlon said the first order of business will be to notify 42 teachers, 13 members of the support staff and three building administrators who previously received layoff notices that they will be recalled as soon as the board officially approves doing so. A special meeting has been called for June 11 to do that. Three district office administrators probably will be reassigned to existing vacancies elsewhere, he said.

Beyond that, he said, his administration remains committed to continuing to cut costs and to seeking a solution to significant overcapacity. The board is expected soon to establish a committee to produce by spring, 2008, a plan which most likely will include closing one or more schools.

Also planned will be development this summer of a marketing campaign and a plan for better communicating with the public, he added.

The tax increase is estimated to yield an additional $8.2 million. Of that, $2.9 million is earmarked to cover increased costs of existing programs, $3.7 million to bolster reserves to meet payrolls and other expenses during summer months, $1.3 million to begin implementing the strategic plan, and $300,000 for additional building maintenance.

The board has said it will not seek another tax increase for at least three years.

To calculate the additional tax for a specific property, divide its assessment -- available in the Department of Land Use section of  the New Castle County government website -- by $100 and multiply by $0.27.

Get more information about this topic

Read previous Delaforum article: Scanlon charges 'misinformation' being circulated

Read previous Delaforum article: School closure, sooner or later, looms in Brandywine's future

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