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Gov. Carney weighs in on legislation bypassing school referendum process

Delaware Public Media

Lawmakers are considering legislation to give school boards more autonomy to raise tax rates after another series of failed referendums statewide. Gov. John Carney is weighing in on legislation that would allow school districts to increase taxes for operating expenses without a referendum.

State Rep. Earl Jaques’ (D-Glasgow) bill would allow districts to raise taxes to fund operations. But an increase cannot exceed two percent of the current rate or the consumer price index - whichever is higher. An amendment would also allow school boards to approve a one-time rate increase so the district has money at the end of the fiscal year. The measure would take effect in fiscal year 2021.

Carney said he’s hesitant to throw his support behind the bill right now.

“I have sympathy for the districts where referendum have failed. And in fact, one we’re working with very closely, Christina School District. And that particular instance, in some ways it’s a lack of confidence of what’s happening in the district.”

Carney adds he is not sure the legislation solves the problem.

“You really have to look what is at play when those referendums fail," he said. "Whether or not it’s an appropriate public response to lack of performance or whether it’s just people who don’t want to pay more in taxes.”

The Christina School District’s operating budget referendum failed this week, resulting in more than 60 fewer teachers next year. Voters rejected Indian River School District’s two capital referendums attempts this year and Woodbridge’s referendum for operational expenses was shot down in March.

But last month’s Capital School District’s capital improvement referendum was approved.

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