WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Colonial School District referendum as the school year lets out...

Voters in the Colonial school district head to the polls Tuesday to cast judgment on a property tax increase which would hike taxes by 35 cents for each 100 dollars of assessed property value. An average homeowner would pay at least 200 bucks more each year.

Voters rejected a February referendum that would have hiked the average tax bill by $265.

Increasingly, the referendum process almost seems like a management--labor negotiation, where the union seeks more and management offers less than either side expects will be the ultimate outcome. These days in Delaware, school districts almost always need at least two attempts, with the increase sought in the second referendum somewhat less than the first.

Even with passage, school superintendent Dorothy Linn says the district will still have to cut some positions -- an estimated 29 employees including eight to ten teachers.

Without passage, say good-bye to athletic programs in the middle schools and ninth grade. Transportation for some activities would have to be eliminated. Etc.

Colonial has put up smaller tax hikes for specific uses, but before February's referendum, had not held a major operating referendum in two decades.

I'll say one thing for school superintendent Dorothy Linn. She's not a careerist who will leave Delaware at the earliest opportunity. For reasons I've posted in earlier blogs, superintendents & administrators in New Castle County's public school districts face unique challenges. And they can be better compensated - with fewer hassles - just beyond the state line.

Posted at 7:19am on June 3, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 8:36am

This is simply incompetence by the Colonial School officials. If they keep raising taxes --and still can't maintain programs---then, the administration is not managing finances properly.

What's especially unfair is the school taxes going up on seniors and others who don't have school aged children. The taxes should apply only to homeowners who have kids that will supposedly benefit from the tax hikes.

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 8:59am
Teatime: Are you also saying that people who don't have kids should not have to pay taxes either?

If people stop paying school taxes when their kids graduate, then taxes will go up - way up. In effect, what you will have in that case is tuition - not public school taxes.

People without kids and people whose kids graduated helped pay the bills when you were in school. Maybe that was money wasted.

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 9:52am
Teatime, It is fortunate you are not in any position to influence public policy. Everybody pays because everybody benefits. I pay nonpublic school tuition, but I have no problem paying school taxes because I believe society benefits with a strong public school system.

That doesn't mean I've supported every tax hike request from my local school district, but I do support having everyone contribute.

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 2:16pm
A $50,000 assessed value will cough up $175 dollars more.
A $60,000 assessed value will cough up $210 dollars more.
A $70,000 assessed value will cough up $245 dollars more.
A $80,000 assessed value will cough up $280 dollars more.
A $90,000 assessed value will cough up $315 dollars more.
A $100,000 assessed value will cough up $350 dollars more.
A $150,000 assessed value will cough up $525 dollars more.
A $200,000 assessed value will cough up $700 dollars more.
A $300,000 assessed value will cough up $1050 dollars more.

So depending upon one's assessed value determines one's vehemence for or against the levy. Fortunately for school districts, half of the district's houses are assessed at under $57,000 and half are above....

Those under $57,000 are a lot more likely to vote yes in a levy than those with values over $200,000 per property.

And it should be noted that this referendum is to compensate for the RTTT fundings that put certain programs in place, and now, with the funding cut and run out, the Colonial District must assess their own district to keep them running. This is why the Christina District during its spat with the DOE wisely chose to bite the bullet this year, do away with the extra programs now, instead of being forced to do what Colonial District is doing tomorrow... begging with hat in hand to its constituents for more money implementing Common Core, which does nothing to educate a child any better than any previous program did or did not do.

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 3:04pm
Kids from higher assessed value homes tend to be smarter. Smarter kids cost less to educate. Lower-class kids tend to cost the district more, yet their families pay less (if their families rent, they don't pay school property tax). And no matter how many special programs and extra programs the district does to keep kids from being "left behind," most are. And all that extra money that was spent is wasted.

Mike from Delaware
Mon, Jun 3, 2013 3:21pm
Billsmith hits on one reason people have a difficult time supporting giving the schools more money, what are they getting for the extra money spent? It's not like we see an improvement in learning. The final product [the graduates] continue to know less rather than learning more as more an more employers now demand a four year college degree for all sorts of jobs that do not need a college degree to perform. Yes, even a McDonald's job was advertised as needing a college degree, because the kids graduating from public High Schools lack even the most basic skills to correctly take a hamburger order, much less know how to give change if the computer wasn't there to tell them how much change to give [I'm totally serious]. So yes the big question is why throw more money down the rat hole?

Funny how the only things that ever get cut from public schools are teachers, programs, and classes that benefit the kids, NEVER do we see administrators cut [these folks are like Congress]. Then the schools have the nerve to say us, "Do it for the children". It would be great if one time they actually ran the schools for the children rather than for their own benefit.

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 5:04pm
Amen. Kids don't learn how to operate the equipment at McDonald's or how to make change, but they spend all sorts of time taking classes in how they shouldn't be eating junk food at McDonald's and it's clear those classes aren't doing any good either. We also pay for all those buses Mike From Delaware mentioned and pay for programs to combat childhood obesity - like nobody should walk or ride a bike to school. Taxpayers provide free breakfast and lunch for kids instead of going after parents who won't even get it together enough to give their kids a PB&J and an apple.

I can't blame the administrators entirely. Everybody would like to get promoted. Everyone wants to keep their job. Why so many administrator slots? Transfer payments!
Federal money and state money to local school districts for specific purposes with all sorts of strings attached. Those strings require somebody pushing paper. And the people at the top of the school districts act like this is free money - like they are saving district residents money.

No, we all pay state and federal taxes, too. That money also comes from us. But with a huge "handling fee" to cover the administrators at various levels. Just because the weasels on local school boards can't or won't walk away from that so-called "free money" with strings attached.

What we need is a constitutional amendment: No money from one level of government to another; all levels support themselves. No unfunded mandates. If a district school board wants a program, they go to their own taxpaying residents for the money. If the program makes the schools better, people want to move to that district and property values go up.

Mike from Delaware
Mon, Jun 3, 2013 6:32pm
Amen Billsmith. For your entire post. Totally like the idea of a Constitutional amendment: no unfounded stuff from DC.

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 6:46pm
MikeFromDelaware: Thank you.

Maybe it's not the kids who go to work at McDonald's we should worry about. Look at what the schools are sending to work at Taco Bell...

"Shocking picture of Taco Bell employee licking taco shells is posted on Facebook

* Unnamed Taco Bell employee photographed licking a stack of taco shells
* The photo was uploaded to Taco Bell's Facebook page and has since gone viral
* The location of the Taco Bell in question is not yet known"

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2335184/Photos-Taco-Bell-employee-licking-taco-shells-posted-Facebook.html#ixzz2VCD8fjZW

Maybe you need a masters for Taco Bell. Then again, a lot of those Taco Bells are combined with a KFC, Pizza Hut or Long John Silvers so employees have to be versatile.

Mike from Delaware
Mon, Jun 3, 2013 7:22pm
Billsmith: glad I don't eat at Taco Bell.

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 7:31pm
Eh, those property owners in Colonial School District are a bunch of rich fat cats anyway. What's a few hundred more dollars? They wouldn't even notice it.

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 6:12am
Pizza: Sounds like you are calling for class warfare - tax the rich. Have you gone over to the Occupy Movement?

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Jun 4, 2013 8:13am
Mrpizza: The Colonial District is a working-class area that runs along Rt. 9 [New Castle Ave.] also Rt. 13 down to near the Canal, including the Wilmington Manor/Penn Acres area /Minquadale, Old New Castle [the only place with pricy homes], down to Delaware City. The only area with pricey fat- cat homes is in Historic Old New Castle. So other than those few hundred folks there, the rest of the area is filled with working-class folks.

The Red Clay District is the one with fat cats, Pike Creek Valley, Hockessin, and Greenville.

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 8:52am
And so-called "fat cats" want - insist on - good schools. They are willing to pay for them. They move to districts with good schools because of the schools. Even in Delaware with all its private schools, the management-executive-professional class looks for districts with good schools. McMansions can be built most anywhere but people want to buy them in districts with good schools. Partly, it's for the quality of the education provided; partly it's to live amongst like-minded people.

When people in a district complain about taxes, it's a sign they don't value what the schools provide.

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Jun 4, 2013 9:12am
Billsmith: Amen.

I complain about the school taxes, because I don't see value in what the schools are providing our kids today. When the kids can read their diplomas and do simple math again, so that a minimum wage job doesn't require employers to require a college degree so they can get an employee that can do those simple things, when kids start getting homework and being required to actually do it, when proper behavior is the rule rather than the exception in the classroom, then I'll be the first in line to vote YES on the referendum, until then I vote NO, because my attitude is why pay more for less and less learning and preparing the kids to be thinkers, rather than using their heads for a hat rack where they wear their hats sideways or backwards.

I realize that's an over simplistic way to look at it, but the schools really don't want input from parents, or the community, their attitude is: just shut up and vote for the higher tax, because we're the experts. That's the ONLY time we're all considered a team in this process and as THEIR approach is definitely NOT working, why support it?

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Jun 4, 2013 9:13am
By the way, I made one rather long run on sentence, but was typing quickly. Sorry about that.

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 10:45am
MikeFromDelaware: Agreed. I don't have blind faith in "the market" to fix everything but it would sure help with education. Vouchers and school choice would provide competition and an incentive for all schools to be responsive and responsible.

Public schools are a lot like those state liquor stores in Pennsylvania. Nobody likes them except the unionized employees who work there. Higher cost. Bad service. I guess the only difference is cops don't arrest people who send their kids to non-public schools.

Actually, I thought that sentence had a sort of poetic quality. It'd make a good speech. In any case, since nothing is ever the student's fault, if anyone objects to your sentence the person to blame is your high school English teacher.

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 11:41am
I used to think the market would apply to education. But no longer. When one applies that concept one is only thinking of one way:... "Wow, if there was a choice there would be competition and the students would benefit". There is a downside. When a business fails, it is an investor's money that disappears, probably that of a bank. If a charter school fails, it takes all those kids down with it. They never get that time back. I'm not sure what the data is today but back during the Clinton Boom of all start up businesses only 40% made it past the fourth year. That means that 60% fail.

In Delaware it was revealed today that since 2009, the failure rate of Delaware Charter schools was 40.9%...

The Charter Schools proponents say... good, it shut down. That proves the market works. It didn't survive! That's the whole idea.

They forget that in that failure there were children who if in another environment, would have, could have, should have learned much, much more.

That is the failure of the private charter school system. You have a 40% failure rate with new Charters, and at a charter school's very best, it can barely meet the record of a traditional public school..

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 12:46pm
kavips: I don't see how a charter school failing takes kids down. The kids go away with what they have learned. If a restaurant fails, you still have the diners who ate there. Besides, competition would include traditional public schools. Now, you pay for public education whether you use it or not, and pay extra if you select a private school. With vouchers, education still gets public funding but you choose where to go. It's like a health insurance plan where you get to choose your own doctor. The current system is health insurance where they tell you which doctor you have to use.

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Jun 4, 2013 1:28pm
Kavips: Billsmith is correct. One of the problems with the public schools is they don't have to be good, which is why they don't like Charter schools. Yes, those charters take away tax dollars that used to be the public schools alone.

You worry about the damage done to a kid in a poor charter school, but seem to ignore the damage that is being done to the kids in public schools, which is why I won't support their referenda; they have no accountability [again kind of like Congress].

Charter schools and Vo-Tech schools both are public, but are run like private schools where you have to apply and be accepted, keep your grades up; also where you have to follow their rules or they'll kick you out and send you back to your assigned district school. Interestingly, there's a waiting list each year, so I apparently am not alone in seeing the value of the Vo-Tech School District's schools.

I've had one of my kids in Vo-Tech and two in public high schools. There is a world of a difference between the two. I'll gladly vote YES for any referendum for the Vo-Tech District, because it DOES deliver a quality product that's totally aimed at the kids learning school stuff, vo-tech skills, learning what's expected when you go to work [you'd be suprised how many kids seem to think the employer owes them that paycheck], etc. They have tough standards and about 1/3 of their students go on to college, so Vo-Tech isn't just for non-college kids anymore.

The point is, the "normal" public school could and should be ran like the Vo-Tech or Charter schools [think Charter School of Wilmington or Cab Balloway School of the Arts].

If a student is a behavior problem then that kid, should be removed and placed in a class or school for those problem individuals where they can learn behavior skills while learning school stuff and for the real hard core; they can also learn how to make license plates since that will probably end up being their career path anyhow [while in prison], rather than allow those kids to keep the other kids, who want to learn, from getting their opportunity to learn.

No, the public schools have that entitlement mentality that they are owed that tax money, rather than earning that tax money, and that is a major part of their problem.

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 6:30pm
MFD & Billsmith: You guys sure can't recognize a joke when you read one, can you? Do you seriously think that I believe Colonial School District consists of nothing but the rich?
I don't believe that anymore than I believe Bill Smith and Mark Rice are homosexuals, and your absence of a sense of humor just spoils the fun.

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 7:50pm
Pizza: As I have suspected, you say outrageous and crazy stuff for fun. Nothing you say can and should be taken seriously.
PS: I'm Bi.

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 8:36pm
billsmith: No, you're B.S.

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Jun 4, 2013 11:21pm
Mrpizza: Sometimes in the written form, sarcasm is hard to detect. Since you were being sarcastic in your comment about the Colonial District being a wealthy district, then apparently on that issue, you, Billsmith, and I agreed.

Apparently, Colonial won their referendum, by only 67 votes. So they got their way and now will get their money as the tax payers in that district will now get to pony up more money. Meanwhile nothing will be done to help their students being able to read their diplomas or know how to make change and do simply math. So in this case the people of Colonial District bought a pig in a poke. They are buying something, but won't be pleased with what they actually bought. It is what it is.

Wed, Jun 5, 2013 3:20am
MFD: This is one case in point about why I'm a conservative. For about the past 40 or even 50 years, the mindset about schools and just about everything else has been to just throw money at it, and if you finally throw enough at it, maybe some of it will stick.

Perhaps a few tubes of superglue would be in order here.

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jun 5, 2013 7:56am
Mrpizza: On this issue [school spending without reform to what they do] I'm a conservative. I'll choose to err on the side of liberalism when it comes to feeding kids [school breakfast/lunch programs and things that help folks get back on their feet, etc., over giving more and bigger tax breaks to corporations].

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