Brandywine likely to seek
hike in its current-expense tax rate
Brandywine school board will
consider -- and most likely adopt -- a referendum plan which
will call for asking district residents to approve increasing
the ceiling on the current-spending component of the property
tax rate by somewhere in the range of 25¢ to 29¢ for each $100
of assessed value. The present rate is $1.289; the total tax
rate is $1.8385.
Chief financial officer David Blowman told Delaforum that, if
the increase is approved and fully applied, it would mean an
annual increase somewhere between $175 and $203 in the levy on a
'typical' residential property in the district, which includes
Brandywine Hundred and a large section of north Wilmington. The
tax is levied on commercial and industrial as well as
residential property, but only residents of the district, 18 and
older, are eligible to vote at a school referendum.
Although civic activist Chuck Landry said district residents
historically are supportive of public schools, "you're going to
have the public asking how you justify what you're asking for in
this economic climate." He indicated he felt that could be done.
Generally speaking, school districts increase their tax rate in
annual increments up to the ceiling. The present ceiling has
held for five years. There has been no public comment on how
long a new one would be expected to last.
Landry is a member of the resource and planning committee which
on Jan. 10 completed an unprecedented four-month process
during which six committees produced a list of initiatives that
would be primarily financed by local funds raised by the tax
increase. Blowman said 8¢ of the projected increase would be
used to finance the incentives with the rest earmarked for
In consolidating the work of the other committees, the resource
and planning committee accepted the priorities set by the other
groups but spoke of several places where the previously reported
$5 million annual pricetag for the initiatives could be
significantly pared. An 8¢ tax rate would indicate they are now
expected to cost around $2.7 million.
It was said, for instance, that Brandywine and other districts
are looking to state government to wholly or at least partly
finance several elements of an ambitious proposal to
significantly expand use of computer technology. The original
first-year cost estimates for five priorities submitted by the
technology committee totaled just over $1 million.
Completely dropped in the review by district officials of the
preliminary proposals submitted in December was a proposal to
establish a foreign-language curriculum in all elementary school
grades. "Spanish in elementary [schools] was going to be a
bridge too far," Blowman said at the resource and planning
committee meeting. "It was too much to try to accomplish in this
Assistant superintendent Judy Curtis said none of the remaining
proposed initiatives would require hiring additional staff. Such
proposals as providing more extracurricular activities, she
explained, can be implemented by existing personal receiving
extra pay for extra responsibility -- an existing practice known
colloquially by the acronym 'eper money'.
With reference to financing extracurricular activities in
elementary schools, Blowman said the pricetag can be further
pared by relying on suburban parents to provide transportation
home for their children and limiting district-provided bus
transportation to the three schools -- Carrcroft, Hanby and
Lombardy -- which have attendance zones in Wilmington. That, he
explained, cuts the estimated annual cost from $261,000 to
Comparable in scope to the technology initiative is one to
implement a preventive maintenance plan covering all district
buildings. The initial annual cost estimate for a rotating
three-year schedule was $1,652,710. An alternate proposal, which
includes a four-to-five-year schedule, was pegged at $1,085,000.
Calling the alternate proposal "the minimum acceptable" and the
more intense one not "extravagant" Landry, who also served on
the facilities initiative committee, said, "We spent $220
million [to renovate] our facilities over the last 10 years
[sic]; we're going to spend a lot more over the next 10 years
for repairs" if a maintenance plan is not financed in
Curtis said the referendum plan will be put into final form,
with realistic pricetags attached, in time to provide it to
school board members prior the board's regular meeting on Jan.
23, at which it will be formally presented and, presumably,
acted upon. The tax referendum will be held on Mar. 28.
She said that, after adoption by the board, the plan, along with
"ample justification" for all of the proposed initiatives, will
be posted on the district website. Board approval is considered
virtually certain since all seven members were on at least one
of the initiatives committees.
Although all of the committees' meetings were open to the public
and the process intended to provide 'transparency', they
attracted virtually no attenders other than committee members
nor any media attention except Delaforum.