Capital Looks To Have Three Referenda Over Next Several Years

The Capital School District Board of Education will discuss a draft of a Certificate of Necessity tonight.  Included in this draft is a master plan to essentially rebuild the district in various ways over the next five years.  Overall, the cost for these changes would be around $360 million over a long period of time.  For local taxpayers, the capital costs (for the new buildings and renovations) would be around $130 million.  The district has not calculated what this could cost taxpayers in school taxes.

What the Capital plan does not include are any plans for an operational referendum.  These types of referenda give a local school district more funding for the local share of operational costs.  Many districts include an operational referendum with a capital one.

It has been over a decade since Capital went out for a referendum.  They are actually two years ahead of another district in terms of time between referenda.

Capital is unique with their middle schools.  They have two middle schools.  One covers grades 5-6 and the other 7-8.  Many citizens in Capital expressed a desire to see their middle schools have the traditional grades of 6-8.  This plan would grant that desire.

The caveat to all this is the Delaware Department of Education approving this Certificate of Necessity.  Capital applied for it last year but it was denied.  The state does not just approve any application.  There is a finite bucket of costs for these type of plans.  Currently, Appoquinimink and Cape Henlopen school districts are using a lot of those funds.  The DOE’s number one priority when approving these type of plans is student capacity.  While Capital’s student population has not increased at the rates of districts such as Appoquinimink, Cape Henlopen, and Indian River, they also house many of the programs for students with disabilities that have complex needs for all of Kent County.  Those populations, which require smaller classroom sizes, have accounted for much of the growth in the district.

The plan is very detailed.  When all is said and done, Capital is hoping to have the following:

Two middle schools covering 6th-8th grade.  One will be focused on the Arts while the other will be focused on Skilled and Technical Trades.  Plans call for this to be on Pat Lynn Dr., the site of the old Dover High School.

Elementary schools would carry students in Grades 1-5.  Pre-K and Kindergarten would get new buildings.

The current East Dover E.S. would be demolished and in its place will be an Early Childhood Center.  Down the road they may put a new elementary school on that campus.

Fairview E.S. would be demolished.  Both Fairview and East students would move to the current location of Central Middle School.  This building would be rebranded as Elementary School at Central.

At the site of their current 5-6 middle school, William Henry, this would become the Kent County Community School and the site of the Kent County Secondary Intensive Learning Center.  Currently, the district is leasing a building for KCCS at a cost of $330,000 a year.

Down the road plans include renovating the un-renovated part of Booker T. Washington E.S., Towne Point E.S., Hartly E.S., and expanding Dover High School.

This is what Capital School District is hoping to look like by 2033:

These are very long-range plans going into the next couple of decades.

The full draft can be found here:

Capital School District draft of Certificate of Necessity

 

 

Colonial School District Referendum Measures Fail

The Colonial School District held a referendum today for voters of the district to vote on two measures.  Both failed to garner a majority of the vote according to the New Castle County Department of Elections:

For additional tax Against additional tax
Total 2,193 2,733

For authority to issue bonds
Building For the bond issue Against the bond issue
Total 2,067 2,961

Back to the drawing board for the district.  This happened with Brandywine last year.  Their first referendum failed but the second attempt passed.  Indian River will hold their second referendum in so many months on Thursday.  Last year, Christina passed a referendum on their 3rd attempt after two others failed the previous year.  And so it goes…

Are Red Clay’s Administrative Costs Out Of Control?

A gentleman by the name of Jack Wells, a frequent commenter on Kilroy’s Delaware, has been hammering at Red Clay Consolidated School District for years over their administrative costs.  He makes my charter school financial stuff look weak in comparison!  I tend to focus on the Department of Education’s finances, but one of the major complaints I hear in Delaware is how administrative costs are out of control.  Every school district and charter school in Delaware should have a Jack Wells looking out for these types of things.

What has Mr. Wells upset right now?  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan.  More specifically, the clause indicating the Red Clay board may raise taxes without a referendum…

 

  1. Chart 1 shows total state, federal and local funds received by the district during the period 2006/07 through 2013/14 as reported by our State’s Department of Education.  {Excludes 2 special schools.}
  2. Chart 2 shows the same information for the period 2006/07 through 2015/16, figures for 2015/16 were taken from the districts 2015/16 Budget. {DDOE has not published revenue information since 2013-2014.}

 

%                                                   %

State        Total          Fed             Local        Total       Total

116,745,319  54.82    14,604,025   81,607,040   38.32  212,956,384  2013/14

113,643,134  62.06    11,867,910   57,580,215   31.44  183,091,259  2006/07

3,102,185  10.38      2,736,115   24,026,825   80.45    29,865,125  Total Increase

 

119,089,298   53.44   11,747,926   92,107,040   41.33  222,844,264  2015/16

113,643,134   62.06   11,867,910   57,580,215   31.44  183,091,259  2006/07

5,446,164   13.70  {-} 219,984   34,526,825   86.85    39,753,005  Total Increase

 

These charts show that in 2006-2007 the state provided 62.06% of the revenue and the property owners provided 31.44%, eight years later the state was providing only 53.44 percent, property owners 41.33%, and the districts delinquent school taxes had skyrocketed. During this period the state cut funding to our schools while continuing to fund overhead in our districts and DDOE. The fact are clear, funding overhead is a priority over funding our schools.

In 2014 after property owners provided the district an additional $24,026,825, that represented 80.45 percent of the total increase in revenue.  The Board than told community, if you do not approve increasing your current operating tax rate by 19.97 percent, we will have to terminate teachers, paraprofessionals, activities, etc.,  To prevent these cuts, the community approved increasing the tax rate, than the board voted to deny property owners the right to vote to raise the tax rate.

Chart two includes the additional $10.5 million received this year as a result of the rate increase, since the increased tax rate will be phrased in over 3 years, local revenue with continue to increase. Since the referendum was approved, the district built a new 600 student K-5 school, regular and special enrollment student declined, regular units decreased while special education Div. I Units increased. {Chart below shows changes in enrollment and units.}

Regular      Units   Special  Units

Enrollment  Earned  Needs  Earned

14,364        777       2175      309     2014

13,925        752       2169      321     2016

{-}439   {-}  25     {-}  6        12

When property owners provide 86.85 % of the total increase in revenue, and the Board still has insufficient revenue to provide funding for ELL and low income children, the board has a major problem.  Rather than doing a review on how and where funds were being used by program, and than allocating funding by priority, the WEIC, the board and the boards Community Financial Review Committee recommended doing away with referendums and authorizing the board to raise taxes.  NOW THAT IS A SLAP IN THE FACE TO THE PROPERTY OWNERS, SHOCKING.

I strongly oppose providing the Red Clay School Board authority to raised local taxes without a referendum and wonder why after the property owners provided 86.85% of all the additional revenue, they determined it was necessary to do away with referendums. NOW THAT IS VERY TROUBLING. 

Jack Wells

As a taxpayer, I would find this very troubling.  Charter school and DOE finances are tough enough to figure out, but Mr. Wells brings up many valid points concerning district funds and spending.  I know Christina had to make a lot of sacrifices when their referendums didn’t pass last year.  Teachers lost jobs or were sent to other schools.  Some board members even turned in their district-paid cell phones last summer.  But I also know there are several districts with folks making over $100,000 across the state.  If the Every Student Succeeds Act actually does give more state and local control and less fed mandates, does this mean there would no longer be a need for so much district administration?  Or would it actually increase?  Dare I actually crack the yolk of district funding?  I think Brian Stephan from Delaware Liberal (who is on the Citizens Budget Oversight Committee in the Christina School District) and Jack Wells should hold a forum on district spending!

I plan on sharing a lot of Mr. Well’s material (with his permission) since it is so brilliant!  What do you think?  I would love to hear from some district admins, especially in Red Clay, about their side of this.  It is a conversation that is not going to go away.  One big takeaway I have from all this is that Jack Markell can talk education all he wants, but in his administration, the percentage of funding to education has actually gone down percentage-wise.  Jack Markell likes to talk big, but he leaves it up to the districts and yes, even the charters, to carry more of the financial burden for his (not-so) moments of brilliance.

Let It Go! Christina Referendum Calls For Change From The Past

BobAElsa1

Robert Andrzejewski, the Acting Superintendent for the Christina School District in Wilmington, led a battle cry last night to lift the district from their troubled past and send it to a bright future.

Hundreds of students, parents, educators, and citizens attended the Christina Referendum kick-off last night at Christiana High School.  The district wants to raise school taxes by 30 cents.  According to “Bob A”, the Acting Superintendent’s nick-name in New Castle County, the increase will result in an additional $16.2 million for the district allowing them to bring more quality resources to the district.  Bob A alluded to eventual magnet schools within the district.  In an apparent snafu, he said this would only cost taxpayers in the district an extra $300 a month or $15 a week.  Both are wrong, but we can put the blame on that towards Common Core which puts everyone’s math skills in serious jeopardy!

As Bob A talked about Christina escaping from his past, he brought up the movie “Frozen”.  He talked about “that song” and the main character, saying “What’s her name”?  Someone shouted “Elsa” which led Bob A to say “Yeah, Let It Go, Let It Go, Let It Go”.

Bob A railed on the current testing environment in Delaware during his speech, stating there is too much focus on testing and not enough on teaching to teach, which led to a round of applause from the audience.  Other highlights included a call for more vocational certificates to be issued from the district as more and more districts around the state incorporate co-op programs.

Senator Bryan Townsend attended the event, along with Braeden Mannering from 3B: Brae’s Brown Bags.  Board members Harrie Ellen Minnehan, Shirley Saffer, and John Young also attended.  There was a significant amount of energy which was missing in last year’s unfortunate two failed referendum attempts.  The referendum is on March 23rd.

State Auditor Releases Report On School Tax Collection & Agreed-Upon Procedures

Delaware State Auditor Thomas Wagner issued the annual “School Tax Collection and Debt Service Management Agreed-Upon Procedures Engagement” report for Fiscal Year 2014 on August 14th, 2015.

This includes all school districts.  What is interesting is the four school districts in and around the city of Wilmington.  Due to the restructuring of the former New Castle School District in 1981 into the current four school districts: Brandywine, Christina, Colonial and Red Clay Consolidated, the Delaware Department of Education actually allocates the taxes to the four school districts.  No big mystery or anything, but noteworthy!

Red Clay Consolidated School District Referendum Passes

According to Mike Matthews on Facebook, the Red Clay Referendum passed, 6,355 Yes votes and 5,484 No votes.  Mike actually updated the vote tallies from each school as they were announced.  To many observers, it appeared elementary schools were getting many yes victories, and high schools were the opposite.