tax referendum blitz
The group charged with obtaining a favorable result at
Brandywine School District's Mar. 28 tax referendum will 'reach
out' to residents of Brandywine Hundred and north Wilmington in
enough ways to assure they will get the message through whatever
communications media is their favorite.
The committees which make up the Friends of the Brandywine
Referendum are preparing strategies ranging from individually
signed 'personal' letters to a mass mailing of a 'special
edition' of The Brandywine Review and from scheduling events on
voting day at all district schools to a dedicated Face Book
page. They intend to blanket the district with 'fact sheets' and
a red-white-and-blue pamphlet.
David Blowman, the district's chief financial officer, said that
the additional $27 million that Governor Jack Markell is seeking
in his proposed fiscal 2013 state budget to give to public
school districts to replace federal stimulus money they no
longer receive had already been figured into budget projection
which serves as a basis for 19¢ of the proposed 27¢ tax rate
increase. He said Brandywine expects to get about $2.5 million
of the additional state money.
"That doesn't eliminate the need for a referendum," he said. He
explained it is "a replacement and not new money." Moreover, he
added, it amounts to "half of what was 'lost' in the past four
or five years."
The pamphlet distributed at a Friends meeting on Feb. 15 said
that, if the tax rate increase is not approved, the district
"cannot sustain current levels of academic and extracurricular
programming, staffing, positive classroom environments,
technology support and facility maintenance." Rejection at the
polls, it said, will likely mean "reductions in force, larger
class sizes, delayed maintenance and upgrades to facilities and
"While discussion at the meeting was generally upbeat --
Superintendent Mark Holodick said, "I feel pretty good about
where we are." -- there were a few cautions to temper the
Eugene McCoy, a resident of the hundred long involved in civic
affairs, for instance, said it will be necessary to garner 8,000
'yes' votes to overcome what he believes will be the number of
He did not elaborate at the meeting, but told Delaforum
afterwards that he based the comment on the results of voting at
two referendums in 2007 scaled upward to reflect the much larger
turnout he is expecting this time around.
In the first one five years ago, 9,195 voters rejected an
increase in the tax to finance current operations by
52.9%-to-47.1%. Two months later a somewhat lower increase was
approved 54.6%-to-45.4% by a larger turnout of 13,889 voters.
It was reported that donations to the campaign so far have
totaled only $650. Combined with $1,569 left over from 2007
brings the amount in the kitty well short of the $15,000 to
$20,000 the campaign is expected to cost.
The group was told that letters soliciting donations from the
district's vendors were about to go out and members were asked
to make similar request to any businesses where they have an in.
Assistant Superintendent Judy Curtis said such funds raising is
necessary because the district is precluded from using public
money to solicit favorable votes while such solicitation can be
paid for with money raised by a separate Friends group.
"We're allowed to ask people to vote but we can't tell them how
they should vote," she said. There is no prohibition against
distribution of "factual information," she added.
"We as a group need money in order to be able to deliver these
messages," Holodick said.
He said that he and other spokespersons have been favorably
received at civic meetings they have attended. They have gotten
across the idea that the request for a 27¢ increase in the
ceiling on the current expenses component of the total tax rate,
$1.8385, is based on "a sensible plan" and that the district
"has been transparent" in formulating it.
The Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred has put
out a plea for other associations to sponsor such meetings and
the district is preparing an article it will request civic
associations to publish in their newsletters.
Holodick noted that, so far, there has been just one short
article in the daily newspaper about the Brandywine referendum.
He said the district expects more coverage as the vote gets
near. But he pointed out that the district cannot control the
content of news articles.
Asked if he intends to seek appearances on radio talk programs,
he replied that is a possibility but cautioned that "you have to
be careful about what you ask for because you might get it.