LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The sound of silence on Delaware’s ‘out-of-control school boards’

When Milford residents received their current property tax bills, they went into sticker shock. Their taxes had jumped over 50 percent due solely to the big-spending school board. The promise was that if we approved the operating referendum, our taxes would only increase by $120 to $140.

They neglected to mention a “little” something called a “tuition rate” for which CFO Sara Croce announced they are “not required to seek approval by the local public.” That tuition rate is what doubled our taxes. What generous idiot authorized that blank check drawn on my bank account?

Here are just some of the frills on which they splurged: reinstituting middle school track and volleyball, additional contracts for coaching positions, Odyssey of the Mind (whatever that is), uniform replacements and equipment reconditioning plus “additional funds for our buildings for student supplies and materials,” all of which have little to do with education.

And now, the crowning touch – an $800,000 slush fund! That’s a lot of slush! Does that mean if there is an education symposium in Paris or the Bahamas, the slush fund will cover board attendance?

Another excuse given was the cost for three special-needs children, including residential needs costing over $100,000 per child. A) What kind of learning difficulties warrant such outrageous charges?; B) What kind of country-club accommodations are being provided? C) Why are those excessive costs on my dime? Are said “students” even educable? If so, send them to Harvard, where tuition, room and board is only $82,000 annually.

Where is the oversight? The cost control? The redress? Delaware taxpayers have no say in the free-spending habits of out-of-control school boards, and the silence of our elected officials on this issue is deafening. The residents of every town in Delaware are sitting ducks for the same financial rape perpetrated on the Milford taxpayers. This outrage demands investigation and audit. Is anybody out there? Hear the silence.

Apparently, the politicians don’t know how to deal with this problem, so, I’ll help them out. Here is how New Jersey dealt with their big spenders: Gov. Chris Christie screwed the state’s property tax cap on tighter, scoring a political triumph that could give voters greater control over how their towns and school districts raise and spend money. With his signature, Christie lowered the existing ceiling on annual increases from 4 percent to 2 percent, and closed most loopholes in the existing law.

When towns and schools starved of revenue want to raise taxes higher, they will have to get permission from a majority of local voters. “They’ve got to come and get permission from the people who pay the bills,” the Republican governor said, adding, “This is the beginning of real property tax relief for New Jersey.”

When New Jersey school boards want more than the allowable 2 percent, they must take it to referendum. When that happens, even the most affluent New Jersey communities soundly defeat those referendums. The kicker is that New Jersey schools are far superior to Delaware schools. Further, the per-student cost in Delaware is among the highest in the nation, yet, the resulting SAT scores are among the lowest. What’s wrong with that picture? Ask the big spenders for an explanation. Prepare for silence.

Traditionally Democratic New Jersey elected and then re-elected a Republican governor to get the job done. Maybe it is time for Delaware to do the same. Anyone running for office who promises to give us the same protection from victimization by predatory school boards that New Jersey residents enjoy will get the vote of every Milford taxpayer. Residents of other Delaware towns had better pay attention, take action and vote accordingly – you could be next. End the silence.

Kay Huether

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