March  29,  2012

Brandywine voters okay
property-tax increase

Voters gave the Brandywine School District a vote of confidence, albeit by the smallest margin of any referendum returning a favorable outcome since a capital referendum in 1993.

Unofficial results published by the state Department of Elections for New Castle County showed 4,814 voters, or 53.8% approving an increase in the property tax rate ceiling and 4,126, or 46.2%, opposed.

Superintendent Mark Holodick said the school board intends to impose the entire increase -- 27 for each $100 of assessed value -- in the coming fiscal year. Subject to minor adjustments in its other components, that will bring the total rate to approximately $2.10. Tax for the full year is due on or before Sept. 30.

Holodick said, however, that his previous projection of at least four years under the new ceiling still holds. "That's a minimum. I intend to stretch [that] as long as I can."

The victory was clearly the result of the campaign strategy of scheduling events on voting day, Mar. 28, at all district schools. Without exception, polling places at elementary and middle schools had favorable votes, ranging up to a 76.1% margin at Harlan Elementary. Those who voted at Brandywine and Mount Pleasant Highs rejected the increase while the poll at Concord barely squeaked by with a 50.5% favorable margin. Parents of younger children are more likely to attend a school event.

Anyone age 18 and older living in the district, which includes all of Brandywine Hundred and a portion of north Wilmigton, was eligible to vote and could do so at any district school or a selected community venue.

But a win is a win and members of the district administration and volunteers who worked on the referendum campaign who came out to witness the vote counting were happy to take it. Even though the likely result was known by then, when Harlan, the last poll to report, came in, they cheered that victory margin as the proverbial icing on the cake.

"We will quickly move and decide how we will utilize these resources," a tired but obviously well pleased Holodick told the group before it adjourned to a victory celebration.

Earlier he told Delaforum that the referendum result demonstrated that "people are engaged" with the school district.

"No one can say we didn't get the word out," he added.

The referendum was preceded by a seven-month public process during which school personnel and community volunteers came up with initiatives for what they refer to as the district's 'success plan' and then worked to sell the proposal and turn out a favorable vote. It was agreed their most significant challenge was to overcome psychological and real effects of the sluggish national and local economies.

Eight cents of the tax hike has been earmarked to finance the new and enhanced programs while 19 will go to finance continuation of present programs and rebuild budget reserves.

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Read previous Delaforum article:  Brandywine advocates anticipate a favorable referendum result

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