to tax referendum proposals
An indication of the scope of the Brandywine School District's
planned tax referendum has emerged as five planning committees
composed of district staff and community volunteers turn to
preparing final recommendations for submission to the school
So far, no pricetags have been attached to an extensive list of
preliminary recommendations presented to the board at a recent
'workshop'. That is scheduled to happen at a meeting of a just
organized sixth committee in early December.
As previously reported, the board is expected to approve a
referendum plan at its January business meeting. At that time
many of the more than 100 members of the planning committees are
expected to participate in a coordinated effort to secure a
favorable result when district residents go to the polls on Mar.
Board approval of the referendum plan is believed to be assured.
At least two members of the board are actively serving on each
of the planning committees and all seven members of the panel
have at least one committee assignment. Joseph Brumskill is a
member of all the committees.
At a joint meeting of the committees on Nov. 21 assistant
superintendent Judy Curtis directed them to eliminate
intercommittee duplication and assign priorities to up to five
recommendations apiece. Offering fewer than that number would be
all right, she added.
Chief financial officer David Blowman called for "focusing down
on what the real priorities are and why those priorities are
"It's tempting to ask for everything." but, given the state of
the economy, "setting a [tax] request at a level the community
can support" is essential, he said.
Marty Tracy, a retired Brandywine administrator who is overall
chairman of the referendum effort, agreed that the state and
national economies will be factors in next year's voting, but
added that he has "never seen a school referendum [held] when
it's [considered] a good time."
Scheduling the referendum in March -- two months ahead of the
time when school elections are usually held -- provides a window
for another try if voters reject the initial proposal
before the board has to set the fiscal 2013 rate. State law
limits districts to holding no more than two referendums in any
12-month period. All district residents age 18 and older are
eligible to vote in a school election irrespective of whether
they are registered to vote in general elections.
Brandywine voters will be asked to approve an increase in the
ceiling on the current-expense component of the district's tax
rate that can be imposed in any fiscal year. Usual practice in
public school districts is to ratchet up to that level in annual
increments. The rate now in effect in the Brandywine district --
$1.289 for each $100 of assessed property value -- has held for
three years. The most recent tax referendum was five years ago.
Local financing for current expenses is the largest component of
the total rate -- $1.8385 in Brandywine -- and is one of two
components subject to referendum. The other is the debt-service
rate which is based on referendum-approved borrowing for capital
Blowman noted that whatever plan goes to referendum in March
will be "supplemental to everything that we already do." He
added that the disrict plans to "maintain [its] current base
Summaries of the preliminary presentations have been posted on
the district website. According to district officials, the final
proposals will be posted for public comment during the month of
Proposals now on the table cover a wide range. The principal
● Increased emphasis on foreign language instruction, including
its introduction at the elementary-school level, and added
support for such academic offerings as the state science,
technology, engineering and mathematics program -- to which
Brandywine has added the arts, changing the acronym from 'stem'
to 'steam' -- International Baccalaureate and advanced-placement
● Expansion of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities,
particularly in elementary schools. Those would include sports
and the arts. That would require additional pay for faculty
moderators, locally-financed after-school bus transportation and
support for households unable to provide such things as band
● Added opportunities for alternative instructional placement of
problematic students, including expansion of the existing
arrangement to children in elementary grades and provisions for
effecting in-school 'suspensions'. Also recommended are
'social-skills training' for school staff and professional
development for teachers and others to better address students'
behavioral and emotional needs.
● Installation, maintence and updating of techology to include
wireless computer access in all schools and providing
an"universal instructional technology package" for teachers;
four-to-five-year replacement cycles for equipment; and
evaluation and implementation of 'next generation' information
● Significant expansion of building maintenance and
implementation of management plans such facilities as athletic
fields and security systems. The recommenation includes
increasing the district's maintenance budget from what is said
to be its current level of approximately 82¢ a square foot to up
to the 'industry standard' of $2 a square foot.