school board will be asked at its business meeting on June 20 to
set the tax rate at $1.1745 for each $100 of assessed value, up
from 97.03¢ levied this
year. Tax on a house with a market value of $150,000, assessed
at the district average 44%, would increase by $134.77 to
presented to the district's financial advisory committee
indicated that homeowners who are 65 years old or older will
continue to pay half of the first $1,000 of tax, but that
Brandywine, following the precedent of previous years, will
pocket, rather than pass on, the general tax-reduction on
primary residences. Both breaks are financed by the state. The
General Assembly has yet to provide money for them in the coming
fiscal year but is expected to do so before adjourning at the
end of June.
and New Castle County property taxes are due on Sept. 30. School
boards have until July 15 to set their tax rates.
Brandywine board could boost the rate higher than recommended or
could impose a lower rate, but neither course is very likely. In
any event, the year which begins July 1 will be the first in
which Brandywine's rate has exceeded a dollar.
agreeing to support, with a minor modification, the
recommendation by Superintendent Bruce Harter, the financial
advisory committee discussed the pros and cons of upping the
operating-tax increase to the maximum authorized by voters in
April despite the board's pre-referendum stated intention of
imposing the full increase incrementally over the next five
were persuaded against recommending imposing the full amount by
board member Janice Tunell who said doing so would result in a
public-relations fiasco. "Can we afford the publicity? I don't
think we can," she said.
Tunell, whose term on the board
expires on June 30, said parents and other district residents
already are confused by
cutbacks in such things as the district arts program and
physical education in elementary schools after the
district was successful in securing voter approval of a
significant increase in the ceiling on the operating tax.
Harter told the committee that
the board will "take care of the art coordinator piece" at
its meeting but added, "otherwise we are looking to make
more reductions." Without going into detail, he mentioned
assistant principals, nurses and secretaries as likely
areas for them.
Harter said he
is "very uncomfortable with where we are at the end of the
[fiscal] year." In particular, he cited an
school tax rates
SOURCE: Brandywine School District
expected local-funds balance of about
$300,000, compared to the $1 million the district had expected
as late as January to have on hand on June 30.
William Bentz, who has
been serving as interim financial officer, said a district the
size of Brandywine should have a carryover of at least $5
million to $6 million to meet its obligations, including
payroll, until tax revenue begins to arrive in autumn. He said
Brandywine this year will have to borrow from the state to do
Even with the proposed
tax increase, Bentz predicted that Brandywine will still be cash
short at the end of fiscal 2003. Pre-referendum projections
called for restoring the balance to about $3 million.
Crux of Brandywine's
continuing financial problem, Bentz said, is that "you exceeded
your income this year by $3.5 million."
"We had expected
overspending our revenue, but not to the extent we did. I don't
know why we were so far off," Harter added.
He said a preliminary
fiscal 2003 budget is not ready for presentation to the board,
as is customarily done at its tax-setting meeting, because
"several things are happening simultaneously" which will affect
those figures. He did not elaborate nor indicate when a draft
budget will be ready.
Within the proposed tax
rate, Harter and the committee are going to recommend that the
board impose a 48.8¢ district rate
on top of the 46.8¢ rate that has been carried over from when
there was a single countywide consolidated district. Taxes
collected through the county rate are apportioned among the four
major districts -- Brandywine, Christina, Colonial and Red Clay
-- based on a ratio of number of students to total assessed
property value. Brandywine taxpayers pay somewhat more than the
Voters in April authorized a
district operating rate ceiling of 51.4¢.
The debt service component, which
is recommended to be increased to 7.8¢,
is used to pay interest on and serially retire bonds sold to
raise money to finance the district's major renovation program.
The committee decided to add a tenth of a cent to the rate he
recommended after members questioned whether the balance in that
account which Bentz projected would be sufficient.
He said he deliberately kept the
rate "conservative" -- and lower than had been projected when
voters were asked in 2001 to authorize the present bond issues
-- because Brandywine property owners will face a
"significant adjustment" in that rate next year as the
renovation program moves forward. Brandywine expects to sell
$13.6 million in 20-year bonds at an anticipated interest rate
of about 6% when the state goes to the market in January. Bonds
authorized for sale last year are to be sold with a state
offering in August.
The board will be asked to raise
the tuition tax rate to 12.2¢ to cover expected increases in the
cost of sending students with special needs to school outside
Because the combined minor capital
expenditures and technology spending rate was set last year
higher than needed to raise the money necessary to match state
funds available for those purposes, a reduction of just over 1¢
has been proposed for that component.
pre-referendum promotion and information efforts focused mostly
on the district operating rate component, Harter noted that the
lower-than-expected increase in the capital expenditures tax
resulted in a proposed total tax rate slightly less than the
$1.18 anticipated in January.