Sunday, March 08, 2015

The Delmar School Referendum

This Tuesday once again the Delmar school district will have a referendum that will ask to increase taxes.  The right for citizens to vote for or against this referendum was approved by the elected members of Delmar Board of Education;

Shawn Brittingham, President:

David Burton, Jr., Vice-President:

Thomas Elliott:

Jason Coco:

Farrah Morelli:
The referendum consists of two questions of which you vote for or against.
Those questions are
1) A tax increase of 15.2 cents per hundred for capital improvements

2) A permanent tax increase of 31.1 cents per hundred for operating expenses
Over the years or at least since about 1997 the Delmar school District has had a referendum to build a new school, a referendum to add six new classrooms and an expanded school cafeteria, and the strange one in 2007 of transferring 15 cents from the debt service fund to current operations.  All have been approved in part due to the low Sussex county tax rate which makes a school tax increase look less depressing and the high number of school employees who vote for their own personal benefit.

Looking at the school tax rate from 2010 to current the rates have looked like this;
2010-2011  $3.12 per hundred

2011-2012  $3.31 per hundred

2012-2013  $3.7574 per hundred

2013-2014  $3.8094 per hundred

2014-2015  $3.6394 per hundred

So since 2010 the school board have increased our tax rate by $.5194 or 16.6% in spite of a decreasing capital portion of the bill.

A 2014 comparison of school districts

Laurel $ 3.696

Delmar $3.6394

Woodbridge $3.617

Milford $3.4783

Seaford $3.20

Cape Henlopen $3.071

Indian River $ 2.693

So in spite of having the second highest tax rate in Sussex County they want more

Population wise the total school population is 1,367 if I copied the right numbers down at the meeting.  Of that amount 520 are from Maryland (of note 460 Delaware kids go to the Maryland school) and 50 are school choice from other school districts.

The current taxes and the proposed increase will be the responsibly of the property owners in the Delmar School district.  There is a case to be made that the cost of the Maryland kids who go to school in Delaware will be reimbursed by the Bi-State agreement from Wicomico County.  Of course the reimbursement for those kids will be spread over the much larger property base of Wicomico county as opposed to the few of us in the Delmar school district who will bear the burden

In looking at the capital improvement tax increase it is a little misleading in the ballot description.  The school supplied the items that the capital improvement will cover at their informational meeting and the school was nice enough to give me a breakout of Estimated costs (what real cost will be will be determined after the bids, if referendum is approved)  for the items when I asked  for it.

 Roof replacement                                                 $  663,900

Exterior coating & caulk repair                            $  320,500

ADA compliant adjustments                                $  672,799

Keyless entry system                                            $    45,865

Canopy & bus waiting area at North entrance     $  300,855       

Retention pond relocation                                    $  100,000

New locker room/Athletic facility                        $2,000,000

Total                                                                    ​ $4,103,919  (State will pay 80%; Delmar will pay 20%)

So the main capital item is a sports facility followed by those American with Disability act (ADA) requirements and the roof repairs on the “new” school built in 2000.  I can only assume the new roof repairs will come with a warranty at least as long as the 20 year capital improvement loan

The operating portion on the referendum is a 31.1 cent per hundred permanent increase for salaries and operating items.

Let me say there is some merit in the capital improvements altho I can only see about $1.5 million being needed, instead of $4 million.  The Operating portion I wouldn’t vote for at all.

It is interesting that a large percentage of the people who ask for the money/tax increase and who will benefit from it if the referendum is passed do not live in the school district and will not have to be burdened by the tax rates.  Much like the town employees, who you can count on one hand those that live in the town limits, school employees live out of state or out of the district.  

The largest employer in Delaware is the state of Delaware , the counties, the towns and the school districts.  As any politician knows if you give people jobs it ensures they will vote for you and your policies.  School referendums are prime examples of this outlook in the Delmar School district.  Less than 10 percent of voters will vote in a school referendum.  I am guessing only about a hundred will vote in this one.  Altho a large percentage of the school employees live out of the school district there are enough living in the district that they will pass this referendum, the same as the previous referendums, for their own personal benefit.    

If you decide you want to waste your time on a done deal the election is March 10th Tuesday from 10 AM to 8 PM at the Delmar School District office at the school.

No great surprise below are the results

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