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May 1, 2007

Brandywine will ask voters
for a smaller tax increase

Brandywine School District will try for a second time to get residents to approve an increase in the operations tax rate which officials say is essential to maintaining its existing education program while beginning to implement a long-range plan to take it to the proverbial next level.

"I think this will be supported. We'll know on June 4," superintendent James Scanlon said after the school board voted unanimously to ask for an increase of 27 on each $100 of assessed property value, of which 25 would be imposed in the coming fiscal year and an additional penny in each of the following two years.

That would be about 35% less than the 38.2 the district sought but nearly 9,200 voters rejected by a relatively small but decisive 53%-to-47% margin at the referendum on Apr. 24.

If applied to the current $1.4925 property tax rate, the increase when fully implemented would be 18%. It would boost the current-expense component of that overall rate  by 24.5%.

Scanlon told the board at a special meeting on Apr. 30 that voter rejection of the new proposal will necessitate cutting more than $4 million, or about 10%, from locally financed district spending. More than half of that would come from lay-offs of teachers, administrators and support staff. In addition, one primary grades elementary school would be closed.

Even if the proposal is approved, he said it will be necessary to significantly reduce the district's excess capacity by closing one or more schools in the near future. "Our problem is that we have too much space and not enough students. ... If we don't address this situation, we're looking at program cuts in [future] years," he said.

Chief financial officer David Blowman told the board that the proposed 27 increase is the minimum needed to sustain the district. "I believe we can make a solid commitment [not to seek a further increase] for three years if that rate is adopted [by the board] and approved by our community," he said.

The board agreed, six-to-nil,  to seek the increase. Member Sandra Skelly was present for the first half of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting but left before the vote was taken.

Although the board did not formally vote on Scanlon's recommended budget-cutting proposal nor the parameters within which it was made, discussion indicated consensus agreement with them.

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Read previous Delaforum article: Rejection of Brandywine tax likely to result in drastic cuts

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