What is it about Delaware bills with the number 50 in it? Senate Bill #50 is going to be pulled today according to sources in the know. The bill would have created the Delaware Tech “Community College Infrastructure Fund”. But after opponents of the bill cried foul the legislation is going to die.
So what ticked so many off about this bill (myself included)? It was the fact that we have schools with mold and poor air quality but this would have created a non-referendum vote for the Del Tech board to raise property taxes. Conservatives and liberals alike, especially those involved in the education arena, said NO! The Delaware State Education Association came out against the bill in a post on Facebook. A website called Fix Delaware’s Schools sprung out of nowhere calling for educators to send pictures of their dilapidated schools.
As sponsors of the bill championed the legislation in the media and social media, opponents blasted them. Teachers and educators said “What about us?” and said the money is needed in district schools before Del Tech. Others said it would weaken the already flawed referendum process. Those who hate paying taxes said no more.
In the debates over the bill, no one said Del Tech is a bad community college. All felt they serve a vital purpose and do a good job. But when folks are in the middle of filing taxes and see how Mark Brainard makes a huge salary at Del Tech, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
While Senate Bill #50, in its current incarnation, is dead, do not expect the spirit of it to whither away and die. Some legislator will bring it back. Del Tech clearly has a powerful lobbying force in Legislative Hall to gain so many sponsors on the bill.
The bill came out on January 17th and was released from the Elections, Government and Community Affairs committee on January 23rd. The bill was placed on the ready list for a full Senate vote until it exploded in the proceeding weeks.
Take a good look at the following synopsis of the bill because it will be different the next time:
Delaware’s statewide community college system, operated by Delaware Technical and Community College (“the College”), plays a critical role in the State’s economy by providing workforce development, vocational training and transfer education that connects Delawareans with good paying jobs within the State and region. This Act gives the College’s Board of Trustees the authority to issue bonds to finance the cost of major and minor capital improvements, deferred maintenance, and the acquisition of related equipment and educational technology and establishes the Community College Infrastructure Fund (“the Fund”) to pay the principal and interest on such bonds. This Act adopts the county Vo-Tech structure to finance the Fund by authorizing the College’s Board of Trustees to collect a local property tax, subject to a cap. All money raised in a county must be placed in a segregated account and spent exclusively on projects in that county, thereby eliminating any possibility of applying this Act in an unconstitutional manner. This Act also provides a mechanism, but not an obligation, for the state to provide matching funds for minor capital improvement projects consistent with existing matching provisions for public education. Property taxes raised pursuant with this Act cannot be used to fund any local match. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.