Delaware Tech pushes property tax proposal

 

DOVER — Delaware Technical Community College’s president called for top budget officials Thursday to support a bill that would impose a property tax on all state residents.

Senate Bill 137, filed in June, would treat DelTech like the state’s three vocational school districts, creating a fund supported by a tax on assessed value of real estate. The legislation would create a tax maxing out at $1 for every $1,000 in assessed value. DelTech administrators say the proposal would cost most homeowners less than $10 in the first year.

Mark Brainard Photo by .

Mark Brainard

The legislation was released from committee but did not pass this past session, leaving DelTech officials disappointed but not discouraged.

Appearing for the college’s annual budget hearing, DelTech President Mark Brainard said the school is requesting $14.2 million in capital funding but hopes the bill passes in 2016, taking the college out of the capital funding process entirely.

“The contention that every public higher-ed institution is equal and should receive equal funding in the bond bill just no longer makes sense,” he said. “Everybody’s aware that the number that comes out of the bond bill is all equal but the impact or results of that number is far from equal.”

DelTech, Delaware State University and the University of Delaware each received $6 million in capital funding last year.

“The other institutions have bonding authority and other revenue sources that allow them to not only repair, renovate but also to construct new facilities. We can’t put a roof on without getting funding out of the bond bill process,” Dr. Brainard said after the hearing, calling the roofing situation at the George Campus a “bad joke,” he said.

About 70 percent of community colleges have a funding structure similar to the one DelTech is requesting, he said.

Of the college’s 40 buildings, about two-thirds are more than 25 years old.

The college’s operating budget request is $81.5 million, a 1 percent increase from the current fiscal year.

The president also spoke on plans to start a new bachelor’s degree program in nursing, which could launch as soon as the fall. Because many institutions now strive to have 80 percent of their nursing workforce made up of individuals with a bachelor’s degree, there is less demand in some areas for those with only an associate’s degrees, Dr. Brainard said.

As a result, the college is planning a program that would run “parallel” to the associate’s degree track, which currently has 211 students at the Terry Campus.

“We owe it to these graduates to be pursuing this,” Dr. Brainard said. “They have to be able to have that opportunity.”

State agencies

The Department of Safety and Homeland Security also made its annual request, with new Secretary Jim Mosley detailing the hoped-for sum for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Like most state agencies, the department is seeking a 1 percent increase budget to the $130.7 million it is currently receiving.

Mr. Mosley also requested $23.4 million in capital funding, to go to radio upgrades, minor building repairs, and helicopters. The agency received $3.4 million for this fiscal year.

Mr. Mosley, who was confirmed by the Senate three weeks ago, called for a study on consolidating all forensic efforts into the Division of Forensic Science and touted the new Troop 3 station. Located in Camden, the facility opened Thursday after nearly two years of work.

Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf provided an overview of her agency and its expenses in an afternoon budget session. DHSS, which received more money than any state agency other than the Education Department this year, spends most of its allocation on Medicaid. In the current fiscal year, about 61 percent of the department’s $1.12 billion budget is earmarked for Medicaid. That 61 percent, which comes out to $682 million, is matched by the federal government.

“By leveraging state dollars with federal dollars we are able to support more individuals in need who meet the eligibility criteria for Medicaid,” Ms. Landgraf said.

She informed budget officials the department is hoping for an additional 3.3 percent, or $37.8 million. That would go to a variety of services, including salaries, support for individuals with disabilities and, more than any other factor, rising Medicaid costs.

The capital ask totals $19.9 million, down from $26 million this year. The majority of the request for the upcoming year would cover maintenance and repairs.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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