Sussex Tech Property Tax Increase?

By Staff Writer: Wolf von Baumgart

General Assembly Considers Options

The Delaware General Assembly met twice earlier this week to consider funding options for Sussex Technical High School District. The Sussex County Delegation (consisting of nine state representatives and five state senators) continues to study Sussex Tech’s impending financial crisis. Five budgetary proposals were originally included in a study attendant to House Concurrent Resolution 2, previously passed in January. Subsequently, other options have emerged for consideration.

Sussex Tech administrators have been steadily seeking legislative approval to more than double the STHSD’s current property taxes over the last two years above the current limit as currently permitted by statute. Delaware’s three state-created countywide vocational school districts are legally empowered to raise school taxes (with the approval of the General Assembly and Governor) without a referendum as required for all other non-countywide public school districts.

Currently, STHSD taxes 23.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value. District officials desire a new ceiling authorizing an approximate 115 percent tax increase over six years, ending with a new rate of 50.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.

According to State House Minority Leader Danny Short (R- District 39, Seaford): “Nothing is off the table. Sussex Tech’s finances are not sound and it’s because of the decisions of their leadership. Now, they not only want us to bail them out, they want us to use their bucket too. We’re not going to be rushed into acting because of the situation in which Sussex Tech officials have placed their school. We will act as soon as we reach a consensus that is right for the thousands of Sussex Countians that have a stake in this.” , he stated in a media release. Short is one of the bill’s prime sponsors.

Speaker of the House, Pete Schwartzkopf, (D- 41st District, Rehoboth Beach) weighed in as follows: .”Sussex Tech administrators embarked on an aggressive multi-year expansion plan, even planning a lavish new school. The people that are being asked to foot the bill for this did not approve it. The General Assembly has not approved it. There are multiple issues we need to address with Sussex Tech. This goes beyond Sussex Tech to how they work with, and are perceived by, the county’s other districts.”

Several matters will remain in suspension, including massive new school construction, expansion, curriculum plans and selection of the incoming freshman class until Sussex Tech’s issues are resolved:

(1) More than 700 applications have been submitted for 425 planned openings.

(2) Sussex Tech has increased enrollment over the previous three years, with a current student population of 1,545.

(3) Sussex Tech officials claim that they need the revenue increase to meet their stated goal of serving 20 percent (approximately 2,120) of the county’s high school students by Fiscal Year 2020.

(4) The cost of the proposed school construction is not reflected in Sussex Tech’s current property tax hike proposal.

Sussex Tech officials submitted proposals to the Delaware Department of Education for a capital improvement plan with a cost estimate of between $279.8 million and $316.5 million. The local share of the plan would range between $112 million and $126 million, according to the HCR 2 report.

The Sussex County delegation will continue their deliberations next week, before the two-week Easter Recess.

Currently, there is no legislation pending before the General Assembly that would address the constitutional issue of equal protection under the law and other public interest issues by requiring voter approval of proposed vocational school district tax increases, as legally required in all other Delaware school districts.

21 thoughts on “Sussex Tech Property Tax Increase?”

  1. Rep. Briggs King and Sen. Brian Pettyjohn proposed legislation a year ago to make vocational school boards publicly elected it obviously didn’t pass.

  2. Good link …Thanks.

    They should reintroduce the bill in the greater public interest.

  3. Instituting the right of referendum for the Sussex Tech school district is essential to effective checks and balances and local control. Electing school board officials is only a partial solution.

  4. As a single person with no children, I can’t support a property tax increase. Find a way to tax people who have children in the school–ie state tax form. Renters also get off from the tax and it isn’t fair.

  5. Renters still pay a school capitation tax. While they are not taxed as property owners directly, a portion of their rent is allocated by the landlord for property tax.

    Finding a better funding mechanism will take insight and innovation….

  6. So, Sharon, where does the landlord who owns rental property get the money to pay property tax?

  7. Tax music downloads, Red Bull and marijuana, and the students will pay for it themselves.

  8. ” Find a way to tax people who have children in the school”

    That would be a great idea, but only as long as we can figure out a way to prevent people who have not paid the tax from benefiting from living in a place where people are educated.

    For example, so long as you never use a plumber who got a vo-tech education, or as long as you agree never to drive on a road built by people with vo-tech educations, then we will be able to prevent you from free-riding on the educations the students received.

  9. Likewise, employers who have not paid the school tax should be forbidden from hiring workers who went to the schools.

  10. BTW:
    One of the reasons former Iron Curtain countries used for preventing their citizens from leaving was the cost of their educations.

    Education is supposed to enlighten — not enslave.

  11. I don’t really get the point of that last sentence, Wolf. Education is a public good that the community should fund.

  12. The point is that just because the state “educates” people, it does not mean that it owns them. Education is a ” public good ” to the extent that it truly develops human potential.

    Public funding needs more safeguards against waste, fraud and incompetence. That is why Delaware needs an Inspector General.

  13. Who is saying anything about “owning” anyone?

    I was responding to the comment, typical of the right, that only people with children should pay for public education, as if it was some sort of parental convenience rather than s benefit to everyone.

  14. Having state-created vocational schools districts whose officials are appointed instead of elected and local school taxes imposed by the General Assembly instead of decided by referendum as in all other Delaware school districts raises constitutional equal protection issues. That is the main point.

  15. Sorry for jumping your thread, but wanted to make a reminder to most of your audience, that it is today, today, this afternoon, that the rally takes place outside legislative hall for all parents who want Common Core put in a box and sent “return to sender…” If you care about children, and what they are learning…. PLEASE be there…..

    Do your part to take back control over our child’s education…. 5:00 pm.

    Back to your original programming…

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