Delaware Public Media

Bill seeks to allow school districts to raise taxes without referendum

May 7, 2019

First State school districts could raise revenue for operations without a referendum under proposed legislation. State Rep. Earl Jaques’  measure would grant all 19 districts some power to enact a tax hike without voter approval.


The tax increase would be capped at the consumer price index or at two percent of the district’s current tax rate, whichever is higher. It would start in fiscal year 2021.

Larger increases for operations and capital requests would still require a referendum.

Jaques (D-Glasgow) says Delaware is only one of four states that does not allow this. But he understands his legislation has sparked a lot of debate.

“You know, I mean there’s people upset about it, but they didn’t really read the bill. They think that everybody can raise 2 percent because they only read that part.”

Jaques argues Delawareans can hold school board members accountable the same way state lawmakers are - at the ballot box.

“Well then you get to vote them out, the school board members," he said. "Because guess what? Them school board members, them same school board members do all the data for the referendum. They’re the ones who determine what the referendum’s gonna look like.”

House Minority Whip Timothy Dukes (R-Laurel) says he’s heard from some school board members concerned about having this responsibility.

A companion bill sponsored by State Rep. Paul Baumbach (D-Newark) would limit school board terms to three years and give members $100 for every board meeting they attend.

Editor's note: The original story incorrectly stated the tax increase would be capped at the consumer price index or at two percent of the district’s current tax rate, whichever is lower. We regret the error.