district seeks new
leases with community centers
School District's move to replace dollar-a-year leases with
Claymont and Edgemoor Community Centers with contracts requiring
significantly higher rentals came under fire before the school
John Cartier told the board that the centers are hard pressed as
it is to meet increase demands for services given the current
economy and reduced amounts of support from governments and the
After the meeting
he disclosed that the district administration has presented
community center officials with proposed contracts requiring
payment of $1,000-a-month rent. The Claymont center occupies the
building that once housed the former Claymont High School and
Junior High School. The Edgemoor center uses the eastern portion
of the Mount Pleasant Elementary School building near
superintendent Mark Holodick later told Delaforum that the
proposal is for the money to go directly into revolving capital
contingency funds which eventually would be capped at $100,000.
Whenever that much was in the funds, rents would revert to the
present level, he said.
He said the funds
would be "in their names," but any use of the money would be "a
"There is no desire
for the district to make any profit whatsoever in these
arrangements," he said.
In another matter
before the board at its meeting on Apr. 26, chief financial
officer David Blowman reported that transfers of bond
authorizations among projects in the current third and last
phase of the district's long-term renovations program is being
done in full accord with language in last year's and the
currently pending state capital budget legislation and "special
permissions" granted granted by state authorities in return for
the district's having run well under the total amount of bond
authorization approved by district voters at Brandywine's 2005
called on the board to cut the
community centers a break "in light of the long-term
relationship" between the centers and the school district. He
implied, but did not specifically state, that he would like to
see the token rental rate continued.
He pointed out that
the agreements with the community centers call for them to
maintain the space they occupy which relieves the district of
having to pay that cost. Moreover, he added, much of the
services provided by the community centers augment what the
district does and, together, the partnership "effects positive
benefits to the community."
Cartier at the meeting, Holodick said, "We want the
collaborative relationship with the centers to continue." What's
more, he added, the district looks for ways in which it will "be
able to grow that collaboration."
Until now there has
been no public disclosure of the district's intent to seek new
arrangements and it was not clear at the meeting whether board
members were aware of it. Ralph Ackerman was the only member to
speak to the topic and he referred critically to the practice of
the Claymont center of charging civic associations $25 to use
rooms in its facility to hold meetings.
In any event,
Holodick said that "we are nowhere near a stalemate in these
Chuck Landry, a
civic activist who was co-chairman of the referendum steering
committee in 2005 and has been involved in several other
supportive roles in the district, endorsed Cartier's position
outside the meeting and took issue with referring to discussions
with the community centers as negotiations.
negotiation when you present something and say 'this is what
we're going to do'," he said. "I hope the district is not
sliding into a position where the community is an afterthought."
Holodick later said
that the arrangements offered to the community centers are the
same terms agreed upon in the district's lease of the former
Darley Road school building to the Boys and Girls Clubs of
Claymont. That agency, he said, is in the process of modifying
the interior of the building prior to moving in.
contingency funds, he explained, would be "beneficial to both
[the centers] and the district" in that they would provide ready
resources to deal with unforeseen capital expenses.
He said that coming
up with new leases is not directly related to plans by the
district to move its administrative offices from Radnor Green to
space in the Mount Pleasant building. That required the Edgemoor
center to vacate a portion of the area in the building
which it formerly occupied and also will affect the parking lot.
"They were more than willing to give up that space," he said.
Having the district
offices in the same building will have the benefit of fostering
a closer relationship between the staffs of both organizations,
In a separate
context he announced at the board meeting that the move will
take place during the coming autumn.
In his presentation
to the board, Blowman said that, despite what amounted to a
total restructuring of the district affecting the respective
roles of several of the buildings involved in the renovations
project, there actually have been proportionately fewer
transfers of capital spending authorizations than in previous
phases of the project. Transfers during the second phase
amounted to $1.9 million, or 2% of the total cost of the
project; this time around, 1.5% of a larger total cost is
presently slated to be transferred, he said.
Assembly has always recognized the need to transfer funds across
projects during major renovation projects," he said. Built into
the bonding authorization is blanket authority to move up to 10%
of an individual project's cost. That is the natural
result of the long gap between the time original construction
estimates are made and the work is actually done. "In that
period of time, situations can change," he said
He said there
wasn't any inflation of original cost estimates. "The cost
estimates made were accurate based on what we knew at the time,"
he said. Since the 2005 referendum, however, a later Brandywine
administration reversed previous policies and closed two school
buildings and reconfigured the grades structure from four to
three tiers, which required refitting several buildings to
accommodate children of different ages from those previously
Even with that, the
total cost of the third phase is now expected to be $117.5
million, or 15.7% less than the $139.4 million originally
estimated, Blowman later told Delaforum. As a result, annual
debt service costs -- and the resultant capital-spending portion
of the district's tax rate -- have been reduced significantly.
The current capital-spending rate is 22.8¢ for each $100 of
assessed value, instead of the 31¢ projected for fiscal 2010 at
the time of the referendum. That translates, he said, to a
'savings' of $56.20 against the average residential tax bill.
"Most of this
savings is attributable to lower than projected interest rates on
the bonds sold, but about 25% of the savings are directly
attributable to not renovating Hanby," he said.
In return for 'saving' the state
$13.1 million by closing instead of renovating the Hanby
building, Brandywine was granted additional flexibility to apply
$2.7 million previously earmarked for planning the Hanby project
to the cost of demolishing that building and converting any
affected buildings for their new mission. The major changes were
adding kindergarten through third grade to Claymont and Harlan,
which previously were intermediate schools serving grades four,
five and six, and converting P.S. du Pont from an intermediate to
a middle school.
The district also was granted
"very, very, very unique [sic] flexibility" to use $1.3 million
of the Hanby 'savings' to construct new classrooms this summer
to provide for a much larger than expected number of students at
Lombardy Elementary, Blowman said.
Being able, through a change in
its ownership, to purchase the property it formerly leased for
its busyard instead of having to find and develop a different
property provided $1.8 million which is now proposed to be
transferred to support additional work at P.S., Harlan and
Claymont as well as pay $300,000 for a new playground at
recently opened Lancashire Elementary. The playground was not included with
in the original scope of constructing that new building.
In transferring money among the
projects, Blowman said, Brandywine has acted well within its legal right to do so. "State [officials have] been aware of everything that has been going on with this budget
almost from day one. They have signed off on every request," he
Also, he added, every move has
"been discussed publicly prior to approval" and has been
endorsed by the community Renovations Oversight Committee.
Both Ackerman and board member
Joseph Brumskill, who had requested it, said they were satisfied
with Blowman's report and explanations.