Delaware has a fairly unique system of paying for schools. There are two basic categories
1. Operating funds. This is your every day expenses relating to teaching the kids. This is handled via a part of your property taxes and that part does keep up with population growth. The extra tax rates are required.
2. The actual construction of the buildings is called a Capitol expense. We as the public have a chance to vote for this or against. In the past this has worked reasonably well and can be a challenge. It allows the public a real say in what happens. The process is a referendum but it really amounts to a mortgage that needs paying off. We at IR have about 7 of these in play form many years ago, 7 of which will be paid off in the next 7 years. And then that extra tax comes off the property tax bill. Operating taxes on the other hand never go away.
The growth that we are having here and elsewhere in the state is a testimony to the quality of life we have here compared to many other places. The states said we would have 10,000 students by 2020 and in fact we have over 11,500. And growing. No one could have predicted that level of growth. As of now we are at 98% capacity if all seats are added, although some buildings are now at 115% and growing.
This a real problem. If we as a public vote against new schools, there are only so many options. Temporary buildings which are just that are added, At $400,000 per year and growing, that money comes out of operating expenses and takes money from actual education to pay for buildings. We don't take in enough regular taxes to fully cover that.
Kent and New Castle are having problems with referenda as well. And those state legislators are pressing the state to change the way schools are funded. They want a total property tax re evaluation. Sussex County has not done this since 1974 with the other two being in the mid 1980's. Oh and there is a law suit upstate about school funding that may do all of this via the courts and not the legislature.
If we cant pass referenda that are needed then the state will have to step in. The state will go from the old appraisal to some thing a lot more current, and then they keep the taxes and give it out not the locals. Further an annual tax increase based on the rising value of your home will most likely be in place. Further high property value areas like ours will then see their money going to lower value areas. Currently our tax dollars stay with us.
In Fairfax County Virginia for example, if values rise 4% then your taxes go up 4%, every year and it never stops. Using the rule of 72, that means that in 18 years your taxes will double with no relief in site. Remember that now when the mortgage/referendum/bond is paid off that tax drops.
Like it or not and I don't like it, this is coming. We cannot pack the numbers of kids we have in the structures we have for very long. There are over 1800 new homes and new construction being added virtually every day. It takes 3-5 years given state rules to build a new building.
Please support local rights and pass this referendum. Feel free to call me at 539-7963 for more information or go to www.irsd.net and look at the information there.