Delaware Public Media

Judge allows property tax portion of school funding lawsuit to move forward

Oct 8, 2018

Delaware’s three county governments have failed to convince a judge to dismiss part of a lawsuit seeking property value reassessments.


Delawareans for Educational Opportunity and the Delaware NAACP are suing the state saying current education funding is failing students who are poor, disabled or English Language Learners.

They’re also taking aim at artificially low property values. Eighty percent of property taxes go to public schools - and property reassessments haven’t been done in more than 30 years.

Richard Morse is among the attorneys for the groups filing the suit. He said the counties filed a motion to dismiss that demand, saying it was up to lawmakers to decide when to do assessments.

“It’s not something that’s improper for the court to decide," he said. "We’re just asking the court to enforce the law as passed by the General Assembly and that’s what the courts are supposed to do.”

ACLU of Delaware Attorney Karen Lantz said any increase in taxes because of a reassessment is capped at 10 percent.

“So, it’s not necessarily true that county taxes you know would suddenly ‘explode’ after having not been assessed for 30-to-40 years,” she said.

Lantz also notes the judge’s opinion points out that counties have to reset their tax rates after doing a reassessment.

She adds the judge has yet to rule on the state’s motion to dismiss the part of the lawsuit dealing with inequities in Delaware’s school funding formula. A spokesman for the governor's office had no comment on the pending litigation.