March 10, 2014
Sussex Technical School District employees are launching a letter-writing campaign as a way to influence legislators to increase state funding for the district. While on the other hand, other public school districts in Delaware, where the only option available for raising taxes is to ask the voters to approve a referendum, have been told “no” by taxpayers. In fact, Seaford voters readily defeated a proposed tax increase just recently.
As legislators we must listen to our constituents and examine all aspects of this issue very closely.
The amount that Sussex Tech receives in school funding is based on property tax collections. The district receives 23.5-cents for every $100 of assessed property value in Sussex County. Fortunately for Sussex Tech, land development in Sussex County continues to improve for the second consecutive year.
It would appear that the real concern is the district’s spending policies and the proposed action to sacrifice jobs is an easy solution for the school administration. Sussex Tech has steadily increased enrollment and plans are in the works to add the largest freshman class. Yet, the district is claiming that it cannot sustain current programs. In addition, continually increased enrollment has helped to steadily increase compensation for district administrators based on that enrollment.
In addition, how can the district claim to be in a position where they must cut education jobs, while still be able to hire an independent lobbyist using taxpayer dollars to try to influence state lawmakers on their behalf? Again, the overall concern has to do with spending and other related decisions that are impacting the finances of the district. Until those issues are honestly and accurately addressed by the district, increasing the tax ceiling should remain off the table as a solution.
Perhaps it’s also time the legislature levels the playing field by requiring our vo-tech districts to elect their school boards, as well as allowing the districts to go to referendum when they are looking for more revenue. That way the decision remains in the people’s hands, just like all the other public school districts in Delaware. After all, accountability is a good thing. We don’t have to look that far back to remember the financial crisis in which Laurel School District faced. Like then, our responsibility as state legislators is to remain consistent and fair to all our public school districts and the citizens they serve.
Ruth Briggs King State Representative 37th District