I am predicting now Kim Williams will have a HUGE year in 2018. Judging by a draft bill she sent into circulation for sponsors yesterday, she is already starting off 2018 on a high note for me! Continue reading “18 Who Will Make An Impact In 2018: Kim Williams & Her Awesome Bill In Circulation”
Lots of interesting tax bills on the agenda for the Delaware House Revenue & Finance Committee! Will it be enough to shrink the budget deficit? As well, the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Committee is meeting on Monday. Will the budget deficit go up or down? What will the Joint Finance Committee do with their plethora of cuts? This is where it all starts going down. And where is the budget bill anyway? With all the suggested cuts and epilogue language? I’m hearing it is out there but they won’t let anyone in the media have it.
Yesterday, the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Committee (DEFAC) projected Delaware’s budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2018 to be $395 million dollars. This is up ten million from the last time the committee met. Tonight, the Christina Board of Education will discuss the impact on taxpayers. Governor Carney is suggesting school boards raise what is known as the match tax (the portion the state matches certain funding) by having the district school boards levy the tax without a referendum.
Christina’s Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, created an impact budget for how this increase would hit taxpayers. In the below example, a home that just sold for $224,000 would see their property taxes raised $46.50 with the match tax scenario. Keep in mind, this is based on the property assessment value of $63,700, which is almost a quarter of the home’s actual value based on the sale price.
This is not the only sting homeowners, as well as all Delaware citizens, will feel starting July 1st. State taxes, collected from paychecks, will go up for most. State employees will see higher insurance rates. Salary raises for state employees will most likely disappear. Services will be cut. It is all rather bleak. Our General Assembly has utilized every single benefit to state funding, such as the proceeds from the tobacco lawsuit, without realizing those perks were eventually going to disappear. State revenue does not match state expenses. Companies, such as DuPont and soon Barclays, left Delaware for the most part, causing a severe lack of revenue and jobs. Delaware has, and will continue to, spend more than it makes.
With the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, there was a request to raise property assessment values. While Delaware’s assessment values are still far lower than most states, it also created an influx of senior citizens moving to The First State because of that. But the ability of school boards to raise property taxes, already through the special education tuition tax and soon the match tax, could have a negative impact on the desire of the elderly to move to Delaware or even stay here.
Meanwhile, there has been no action on the Governor’s part to institute the basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade. State Rep. Kim Williams introduced two bills in the last two General Assemblies to take care of this but neither bill has moved forward due to the state funding issues. Oblivious to all the future costs by not having this essential funding in place, our state continues to bumble through special education with this very real omission to the foundation of special education students who are just beginning to manifest their disabilities. The projected amount to fund what should have always been there is a little bit less than $13 million a year. By not providing that funding, the state relies on the school districts or charter schools to pay for these services. Either way, it has a negative effect. If the school does provide those services, it results in more of a drain on local funding. If the school doesn’t, they are not only breaking special education law if the child qualifies for an Individualized Education Program, but they are also looking at higher costs for that student in the future by not providing that foundation. So that $13 million a year mushrooms to much higher costs for these students down the road.
Just this morning, State Rep. Earl Jaques announced a new bill on Facebook creating a fund in the Delaware Dept. of Education budget for an Educational Support Professional of the Year award. Delaware has 16 school districts, 3 vocational districts, and over 20 charter schools. This bill would allow each district (20, which includes one award for all the charters) to give their winner an extra $1000.00. The overall winner would get $1,500.00. While $21,500 in the DOE budget doesn’t amount to much, it is symptomatic of the mindset of far too many of our legislators. Instead of finding solutions, too many of them find ways to spend even more money. If our state was swimming in money, I would be okay with this bill. But not now.
Delaware’s legislature is going to have their hands full when they return from Spring Break next Tuesday. This budget deficit is not the result of a national recession like what we faced in 2009. This is Delaware created. We spent our way out of the recession and now we are paying the piper. Governor Carney looks like a deer running towards headlights with his reactions to this ever-increasing budget deficit. I predict he will have a very tough time getting re-elected in 2020 if this trend continues.
Last night, a friend of mine asked me if Delaware was closing all their day treatment centers. I had not heard of this before. But apparently there is confirmation from a few organizations in the state that this will happen in two months. This would not include the day treatment centers run by hospitals, like Dover Behavioral Health.
Many parents of children with disabilities, specifically autism, rely on these services for their children when the public school system is unable to give the services these children need. In social media postings, several parents are desperately trying to get confirmation of this. I reached out to a couple of legislators and one confirmed it is happening while the other had not even heard of this.
On Monday, the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Council (DEFAC) announced the state was looking at a $167 million deficit in their latest projection. Last night at a “Meet and Chew”, Delaware Governor candidate John Carney said he fears this will rise to $300 million in the coming months. While I don’t know if this is related to the possible shutting down of state-run day treatment centers, it would certainly save the state a considerable amount of money. But what happens to these children who depend on these services? Our schools can’t service them. The private day centers lack the space to accommodate all these kids. As one parent said on Facebook, “this is a disaster waiting to happen.”
If I were a parent of a child who uses these services, I would be freaking out! I highly recommend all of these parents contact the Department of Service for Children, Youth and their Families (DSCYF) as well as the Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS). They should also contact their state representatives and senators. If you don’t know who your state rep or senator is, you can look here for your Senator and here for your State Rep.
One Delaware Senator told a parent they want written confirmation from DSCYF on this matter and expects to receive that today. Why is it always the children who need the most help that get crucial services cut first? If this happens, I fully expect parents to rise up and fight the state on this.
One parent was told this would not affect the residential treatment centers, where students actually live there to get help.
Remember when the Delaware State Board of Education wanted to change a key word from “shall” to “may”? That created a resolution unanimously passed by the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission that if the “necessary and sufficient funding” is not available at two milestones of the redistricting plan, it will collapse. End. Finish. Kaput.
Today, the House Education Committee did two things: they lifted House Bill #424 from a tabled status and released it from the education committee with eight votes in the positive. But the discussion before the vote was somewhat tense. As the meeting started, no House Republicans were present. Slowly but surely, two of them came in: State Reps. Joe Miro and Tim Dukes. State Rep. Deb Heffernan started the questioning about the Red Clay Board of Education’s role if the funding is not there. After a considerable amount of confusion, WEIC Chair Tony Allen and Dan Rich clarified that the amount for the first two years just for the funding changes is $7.5 million each year for a total of $15 million. In the Governor’s proposed budget, he allocated $6 million: $4 million for the funding changes and $2 million for WEIC transitional costs.
Based on Tony Allen’s statement about the resolution, the necessary and sufficient funding of $7.5 million for FY2017 will not be available even if the General Assembly passes House Joint Resolution #12. Yesterday, DEFAC determined Delaware’s revenues are lower than projected a month ago so now there is less money in the state budget for next year. Will the WEIC redistricting plan get out of the General Assembly alive? Or will the Joint Finance Committee give the money to the redistricting plan if it passes both the House and the Senate?