DelTech stumps for more money to repair facilities

 

Delaware Technical Community College, which has been pushing for more money for deferred maintenance since 2006, has $98 million in capital needs, according to President Mark Brainard. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Delaware Technical Community College continues to stress the need for funding to allow it to fix facilities that officials describe as increasingly decrepit.

DelTech, which has been pushing for more money for deferred maintenance since 2006, has $98 million in capital needs, according to President Mark Brainard.

Leaking roofs are just one example of problematic facilities, and the college has already begun closing off rooms, Dr. Brainard told the Joint Finance Committee Tuesday.

The Owens Campus in Georgetown recently had a “critical” HVAC problem that costs $5 million to fix, he said.

DelTech’s operating budget request totals $81.27 million, no different from what Gov. John Carney recommended last month.

“Getting operating funds for new programs doesn’t really make sense for us unless we have high-quality learning spaces to go into,” Dr. Brainard said.

“So, in our minds, supporting the governor’s proposal was what we should be doing. There are programs out there that we would love to expand or implement, but until we can get this solved, it doesn’t make sense to do,” he added.

The college continues to push for legislation that would effectively create a statewide property tax to fund DelTech’s capital needs. Senate Bill 50 mirrors the vocational school model, creating a tax on properties of no more than 10 cents per $100 of assessed value. Assessed value is different from market value.

Unlike the vocational school tax, it would apply equally to each county.

While a similar measure met with no success the previous three years, the bill’s main sponsor is optimistic about its chances.

“It’s something that needs to be done, it’s a different way to do it, it’s relatively painless,” JFC co-chair Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington, said afterward.

The governor’s recommended bond bill earmarks $6.5 million to DelTech, the same sum that would go to the University of Delaware and Delaware State University.

Of the college’s 40 buildings spread across four campuses, two-thirds are at least 25 years old. By 2020, half of them will have been in existence for more than 40 years.

The bill introduced in the prior General Assembly, which also had a cap of 10 cents per $100, would have carried a cost of $7.30 to the average homeowner in the first year, increasing by an average of about $2.50 annually over the next six years, according to estimated figures calculated by the college.

Sen. McDowell briefly advocated for the measure during the hearing, saying “you begin to lose much more than it would cost to fix” infrastructure needs if lawmakers do not act soon.

Dr. Brainard agreed.

“If necessary we will close space,” he said. “That’s just the cold, hard reality.”

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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