Former Delaware Senator Peterson opposes giving local school boards blank check powers to raise property taxes without going to referendum.

Bill would not fix school funding problems

The Sunday “Your Turn” column by Rep. Earl Jaques indicated that House Bill No. 129 would “fix our broken school tax system.” In reality, it does no such thing. It simply adds a second mechanism for school boards to increase our property taxes. 

HB 129 would give school boards the right to increase property taxes annually by the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or 2%, whichever is higher (not “lower,” as Rep. Jaques claims). The CPI, by the way, has exceeded 2% in three of the past five years.  

The bill goes on to say that school boards may request a tax increase higher than the CPI increase or the 2%, but would have to hold a referendum to get the additional funds. So, HB 129 doesn’t “fix” the school tax system, it compounds the problem by giving school boards two mechanisms for raising taxes, instead of one (the referendum). 

Further, the bill does nothing to help the poorer-performing districts. The more affluent districts will collect more revenue because their tax base is higher, and the poorer-performing districts will collect less, thus widening the funding gap.

Delaware already spends considerably more per pupil than the national average ($14,713 vs. $11,762 per year). We are eleventh highest in the nation in terms of spending per pupil.  

Money is not the problem. How the money is spent is the problem.

Karen Peterson, retired state senator, Wilmington

(Letter to the Editor Delaware Online 5/9/2019 ) 

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