Education

Christina Board Candidates Face a Decision Tonight

Candidates can experience BOE responsibility in action and/or campaign tonight.

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Tonight is a curious decision point for the 6 Board of Education Candidates in Christina School District. With DEFAC revising their budget & revenue projections for next fiscal year to indicate a $395 million shortfall (up from $385 million), Christina, and all other districts, find themselves on even more perilous financial footing than they were a few weeks ago. Candidates seeking election to Boards of Education must grasp the financial reality for their Districts. There will be significant changes in funding and resources next year, and as candidates each should take the time to fully understand the situation they will be walking into July 1st, should they be elected.

The Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League Young Professionals has had a New Castle County school board candidate forum scheduled for some time. Slated to take place from 6-8pm. An opportunity for all candidates running for seats in all New Castle County Districts to take part in a community forum. I absolutely support this event and I would love to attend.

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https://www.facebook.com/events/187930535043725/permalink/187930905043688/

But. At the same time, the Christina School District Board of Education is hosting a Board Workshop followed by a regular Board meeting. At the time MWUL YP announced their candidate forum the Board workshop and meeting on the 18th did not exist. However, their necessity was created by Governor Carney announcing his budget proposals for the coming fiscal year. Here are the agendas & the presentation for both the workshop and the meeting.

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2017-04-18 BOE Wkshop-Mtg Agenda-POST

Both Board sessions deal exclusively with the coming fiscal crisis that the State of Delaware is facing. It’s assumed, based on the published meeting agenda, that Christina’s Board of Education will have to take action tonight on their authority to tax. Governor Carney has indicated that Boards of Education statewide will now have the authority utilize the Match Tax rate to recover a portion of the State education funding cuts.

Since Tax Warrants are due to the County the first week of July and the General Assembly will likely approve a budget sometime in the wee hours the morning of July 1, time is short for Boards and District administrations to figure out how to make next school year financially manageable with the bottom falling out of the State budget and put a financial management plan in place.

Originally I had planned to attend the forum in Wilmington, but I will now be in attendance at the Board meeting in Christina as a member of the District’s Citizen’s Budget Oversight Committee.

There will be painful information shared at the Board meeting tonight. The will also be painful action (or inaction) that will have to be taken tonight. Both are scenarios that will play out in all districts in the coming weeks.

Opportunities exist tonight to experience the responsibility (in all senses of the word) shouldered by Boards of Education and for candidates to campaign. The physical locations of each event are about 13 miles apart, but I believe there’s a way for candidates to both campaign and weigh in on and witness the Board’s actions and decisions tonight. I’m curious to see what decisions Christina’s Board of Education candidates make as to their plans this evening.

26 comments on “Christina Board Candidates Face a Decision Tonight

  1. John Young

    Good post. More details here: https://www.boarddocs.com/de/christina/Board.nsf/files/ALDLZ258EA14/$file/FY18%20Budget.pdf

    We are being ask to declare our intent to tax, should that authority actually be conferred by the GA different that the suggestive rhetoric of our Governor. The district is asking the board to signal its intent and I am sure there will be room for many opinions including acting to tax to replace held back revenue streams not previously eligible to “match”…when not elected by constituents with their knowledge it was a “power” of school board members.

    Dicey for sure. The tax event, should it occur, would be July, so candidates still have a choice to make tonight as you suggest, but with a smidge extra info on the link above.

    See you tonight.

  2. Wondering

    So I have never attended any type of meeting having to do with public schools since all of my children went to private school. To be informed, could you clarify that I am able to attend either one or both of the Christina School District Board of Education Board Workshop followed by a regular Board meeting.

    • Great question Wondering. By law, all General Business Board of Education meetings are open to the public, as are all Board workshops.

      The only Board meeting members of the public cannot attend are identified as “Executive Session” on the published meeting agendas. Executive Sessions are where personnel-specific & student-specific information is presented and discussed among the Board and District Administration and privacy & confidentiality laws restrict who may be present during Executive Sessions.

      In Christina, Executive Sessions are usually held immediately prior to the General Business meetings. Other districts have it flipped, General Business (public) first, Executive (confidential) after.

  3. So what’s the potential political fallout here? Are there Board Members who are up for re-election who could face some risk based upon the decision?

    • In Christina, both open seats on the Board will be filled by newcomers. That is not necessarily be the case in other Districts around the State that have seats up for election. There will be 2 seats up for election next year in Christina, but we have no idea whether the current members will file for re-election.

      Boards will have to declare their intentions “To Tax” or “Not to Tax” before they even know whether the General Assembly will grant them authority to use the Match Tax to recover some of the State education cuts. Boards also have to approve staffing levels (teacher and staff retainment or reductions) for the next school year by May 15th…also well in advance of knowing whether or not they will be able to use the Match Tax to recover lost funds.

      The longer-term fallout will be Districts’ now-certain inability to pass Operating Referendums in the future because of the manner in which the Governor has set this up.

    • John Young

      This suggestion by the governor is certainly forcing your question to be asked…coming soon: donkeys and elephants to your local school board elections…

  4. Wondering

    Thank you both Mr. Stephen and Mr. Young. My one question is: voting whether to tax or not to tax is a one time option to make up this shortfall or a “FOREVER” option. If it is a forever option, how often will this “vote option” be available to the board. Yearly, every five years, etc. Is there a cap? This is a significant change in the protocol.

    • 3 of the 4 School Tax rate components are set once a year (usually in May or June) by Boards of Education, Match Tax, Tuition Tax, & Debt Service Tax. There currently is no proposed change in the frequency in which Boards have the option to adjust those rates. I can’t say for sure if it will stay that way until the General Assembly acts or not, because legislation will have to be written to authorize Boards to raise their Match Taxes specifically to recover some of the State cuts.

      As to it being a forever option, there isn’t a clear answer. Certainly the State’s revenue forecast is not sunny and clear, so I would expect the “shift” from State funding to local funding to be long term.

      That said, the General Assembly determines each year what funds Districts can raise using the Match Tax by specifying “Categories” of approved spending.

      In this case, if in the budget the GA says “For fiscal year 2018, Education Sustainment match funds may be raised by local Boards of Education by adjusting the Match tax rate…etc” that’s fine. But they would then have to “renew” that statement next fiscal year (FY2019), or the authority for Boards to adjust the Match Tax rate for Education Sustainment funds will sunset June 30, 2018.

      That’s a lot of words to essentially say: We have no idea yet, we’re waiting on the General Assembly.

  5. Wondering

    Once again thank you for your explanation Mr. Stephan. I assure you there are many more people like me out in the wings that have many questions but are reluctant to ask. With that said, since Christina District always seems to be in ‘deficit’ status for whatever reasons (too many to list here), it is fair for me to worry that how the GA decides to word this switch from State funding to local funding will have a significantly “different monetary” impact on me as a taxpayer living in the Christina School District compared to someone who in a different School District who does not continually find themselves in this deficit mode. I agree that this switch from state to local funding will be permanent and Board elections will need to be taken VERY VERY seriously. Thus, a change in how School Board elections are run and candidates recruited ALSO needs to change hand-in-hand with this tax shift.

    • Wondering, the way the GA composes legislation is always a subject for scrutiny. Always.

      I’d also like to point out that all 16 public school districts are consistently in a ‘deficit’ mode of one form or another and that this is not even remotely close to being a unique situation for Christina residents (I’m one, too). That most certainly has not been the narrative over the last decade or so if you judge by the stories our local media tell. Each and every school district pays the bulk of their expenses from the revenue generated by the “Operating Tax” component of their School Taxes (that’s the 4th component I did not list above).

      Operating Tax (sometimes called Current Expense Tax) rates can only be changed by public referendum. Since the costs paid from this revenue increase at will year over year, but revenue from this tax rate only increases if & when a District pass a referendum (typically every 3-5 years they are attempted), every single district in the state is in ,and creates budgets in, deficit mode. It’s a foregone conclusion whether a given district (or media outlet) says so or not.

    • Also while I’m thinking of it Wondering, please point people to our “Contact Us” section: https://bluedelaware.com/contact/

      Don’t wait in the wings, it’ll be too late before you know it. Ask those questions now and tell your friends to ask them too. Send them our way and we’ll respond. You can also find me on Twitter: @thoseinfavor. I’m on Christina’s CBOC but most of the Districts’ financial matters are intertwined in a number of ways. One is sometimes much like the other.

  6. Wondering

    I appreciate your point that “all 16 public school districts are consistently in a ‘deficit’ mode of one form or another”. However, do the other 15 school districts contain the City of Wilmington students? Believe I appreciate the need but have a problem with the fairness of this tax burden distribution.

    • 4 of them do. (Red Clay, Christina, Brandywine, Colonial).

      The other 12 have the advantage of a much bigger state funds cushion than the NCC Four.

  7. I’m not getting all “Hindsight is 20/20”-ey on you in particular Wondering, but just in general: Board elections should have been taken seriously all along, not just now when funding issues are taking center stage.

    Typical board elections garner <1,000 votes with most elections only getting a couple hundred TOTAL.

    There’s no excuse for that. Especially when everyone has an opinion on “kids these days”. If you don’t vote on the people who run your schools, think twice about criticizing kids these days or schools in general.

  8. Wondering

    I totally agree with you that these Board elections should have been taken seriously all along and I applaud your back and forth with me. The fact is not many people take them seriously and that is the crux of the matter. If you look at the votes cast during a referendum in comparison with School Board elections you see this fact. I guess what I am trying to say is that with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) being put in the middle of the Governor’s inaction, along with his shifting of state to local funding, this is the opportune time to re-think why the School Board elections seem to fall under the radar of most taxpayers. It may be too late this cycle to recruit candidates (for Christina School District, specifically) but this change will garner much publicity and may be an opportune time to engage and not disenfranchise. I see these changes on the horizon causing much controversy. Once again thank you for all you good work. I appreciate all your information.

  9. Michael McKain

    Milford faces some additional challenge too because rates jumped last year due to the referendum and a necessary increase in the tuition tax…hence the 5 candidate at-large race. With an anticipated $1.25 million shortfall (assuming no match tax increase), this year is going to be ugly too.

  10. Anonymous

    Delaware ranks 6th as of (2013) in total of NON-INSTRUCTIONAL FTE’s @ 61.4 per 10,000 population.

    SCHOOL DISTRICTS NEED TO GET RID OF THE FAT AT THE TOP!!

    The Per capita general expenditure of State government for ALL functions (2013-2014) DELAWARE WAS RANKED 4TH!!!

    Delaware needs to get control of it’s expenditures, ITS CRAZY!! AND STOP PUTTING IT ON THE BACKS OF THE HOMEOWNERS!

  11. Anonymous

    This is were I found the information. Delaware spends too much per student. They are ranked 13th in the nation, in total state spending per pupil for elementary/secondary education.

    http://www.nea.org/home/66703.htm

    I know your a big proponent for public education and you’ll deny that the Education system in Delaware is broken. We sent our kids to private school, based on that fact! We had good friends who sent their kids to public school in DE. Their second went to private high school, from AI. They said that they would rather pay for private, than deal with the poor system of the public school system.

    I know teachers that are leaving their jobs here; to work in PA, MD and NJ., because of the mismanagement of the public school system!

    • Anonymous, if you’re going to discuss something like this with me don’t assume what I’ll say. I can be a proponent and critic of the public education concurrently.

      The education system in Delaware is broken. In fact I’ve written many posts (here, on Delaware Liberal before here, and on my own social media accounts) that have included that exact sentiment. Sometimes overtly, sometimes not. But I will always support a system that does the most good even if it requires major improvements.

      Where you educate your own children is your choice as a parent. As a counter to your good friends, my wife and I send our two school age kids to public schools and they’re doing quite well despite the issues our education system has.

      I’d caution against making a blanket statement on our neighboring states’ school systems and their condition. If someone is painting that rosy of a picture for you, they might also try to sell you their bridge in New York City.

      Thank you for the source.

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