The county track of an education funding lawsuit is heading to trial next year.
Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster set a date for trial of March 29-30, 2021 with proceedings to be held via Zoom after the three counties and plaintiffs, including Delawareans for Educational Opportunity, the Delaware NAACP, and the ACLU were unable to reach an agreement on how reassessment would move forward.
Last May, Chancellor Laster ruled the state's property assessment system "unconstitutional." He required counties to come up with a process to begin reassessment, but noted the ongoing coronavirus pandemic may affect the timing of the remedy.
"While the effects of the pandemic do not mean that the counties can continue indefinitely to operate a local tax system that violates the Delaware Constitution and the Delaware Code, the effects of the pandemic likely will introduce additional and significant considerations for the remedial calculus, particularly regarding the timing of a remedy," he said in May.
New Castle County assesses property on 1983 values while Kent County last assessed property in 1987. Sussex County could be hardest hit; it's not re-assessed values since 1974.
Since the May opinion, each county has submitted a reassessment planning report that outlines a four-year process, to achieve reassessment.
While all three counties acknowledge that reassessment is the court-ordered remedy in this lawsuit, they expressed concerns that it falls short of establishing a comprehensive policy solution. They may also need state assistance to get reassessment completed.
The state track of the lawsuit saw a settlement reached last month that sends tens of millions of more dollars in Opportunity Funding to at-risk children in Delaware's most needy public schools. WDEL was first to report a settlement was nearing in the state track of the case.