He promised that the process by which the
referendum is planned and managed will be “transparent
and collaborate.” It will begin on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.
with a public meeting in Mount Pleasant Elementary
School on Duncan Road off Philadelphia Pike north of
Bellefonte. From that point, Holodick said, “anything
relating to the process will be posted on the
At tax referendums, voters approve or
reject a proposed ceiling for the tax rate. The boards
annually set an actual rate – usually in increments –
until that limit is reached. The last time the ceiling
was raised in Brandywine was for fiscal year 2008. At
that time the board said it expected to hold to the
ceiling for three years. It has actually done so for
If approved, the new ceiling, along with
an initial rate, will go into effect in fiscal 2013.
Taxes for that year will be due at the end of September,
Every resident age 18 and older is
eligible to vote in a school tax referendum whether or
not they are registered to vote in political elections.
The local operating expense component of
the current Brandywine rate is 82.1¢ for every $100 of
assessed property value. In addition, district taxpayers
are charged 46.8¢ per $100 countywide rate which has
been fixed by state law since the New Castle County
district was split into four districts in 1981. The
operating expense component is 70% of Brandywine’s
$1.8385 per $100 total tax rate.
With chief financial officer David
Blowman not present at the meeting, the board tabled for
a month a proposed preliminary operating budget for the
current fiscal year, which began on July 1. Copies of
the proposal, however, were made available at the
Anticipated locally financed spending in
the proposed budget was
given as $42.7 million, down four-tenths
of one percent from $42.9 million actually spent last
year. The total proposed budget, which includes state
and federal support, is $143.1 million, an increase of
$5 million over the fiscal 2011 budget. More than 80% of
the increase is the result of the state decision to
finance a 27th pay period and increase the
mandated pension rate. The budget document does not
contain a comparison with what actually was spent in
If the proposed local spending budget
holds, Brandywine will operate barely in the black – by
just $20,000 – this fiscal year.
Holodick told the meeting – attended
mostly by district employees – that the district has
“made every effort to control and reduce costs” without
jeopardizing the level of classroom instruction during
recent years. The main ‘savings’, he noted, resulted
from the closing of Hanby Middle and Darley Road
Elementary Schools. Also, he added, that, despite an
increase in enrollment, the district has reduced the
number of its employees.
The budget document shows a projected
enrollment for the coming academic year of 10,725, up
from 10,657 last year. That would be the highest number
of students since 2000, slightly topping the previous
high, set in the 2004-05 academic year. Despite
predictions that Brandywine would lose students because
of an aging population in Brandywine Hundred and the
portion of north Wilmington that it covers, the actual
number has hovered in the 10,650-to-10,700 range.
Again this year Brandywine expects to
have a significant favorable balance in the number of
students gained and lost through the state’s school
choice program. The margin this year is pegged at 407,
which results in Brandywine’s receiving nearly $1.2
million in tuition payments from other districts.
However, it expects to have to pay nearly $2.8 million
to charter schools which an expected 690 children who
live in Brandywine attend.