Delaware Tech President wants controversial property tax plan scrapped

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Legislators are looking for a way to help Delaware Technical Community College deal with aging buildings after a plan to levy a state property tax to pay for bonds lost traction in Dover.

“After meeting this week with a few of our most ardent supporters in the General Assembly, I have decided to ask Senator McDowell and Representative Osienski not to seek passage of Senate Bill 50 at this time,” Delaware Tech President Mark Brainard stated.

The two Democratic legislators spearheadedthe bill but saw the defection of a key Republican legislator.

“Delaware Tech will remain laser-focused on our mission – connecting Delawareans with high-quality jobs in our communities – and we will continue working with our supporters in the weeks ahead to develop a creative solution to our impending $100 million deferred maintenance crisis,” Brainard added“The entire college community would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to our supporters – legislators, business leaders, stakeholders, donors, alumni, students, and retirees – for their extraordinary commitment to Delaware Tech during their advocacy efforts.”

The use of the property tax had been fiercely opposed by Dover Republican State Senator and former gubernatorial candidate. Colin Bonini, who claimed the approach would open the door to other entities seeking a levy.

The idea of the tax levy also drew fire on social media, with some suggesting fund-raising programs or raising tuitions.

Delaware residents take pride in low property taxes, especially those living inKent and Sussex counties.

There have also been signs of resentment over school districts seeking referendum votes that would use property tax levies for new buildings and operating expenses. A recent referendum vote failed in the Indian River School District, despite property taxes that are among the lowest in the region.

The Delaware State Newsreported that legislators are looking for ways to provide support for Delaware Tech that does not involve property taxes.

Property taxes are often used to finance community colleges that aim to provide low-cost educational opportunities and retrain workers.

Delaware often uses its bonding authority to help institutions with building needs. However, the state limits its bond issues in order to maintain a top credit rating.

Texas community colleges rely on property taxes for 40 percent of their funding but are seeing efforts to hold down rising property taxes that might threaten that source of revenue.

Delaware, like other states, has cut back the percentage of state support for higher education over the years as it deals with rising health care, prison, and other costs. That has contributed to soaring tuition bills for students at four-year public institutions.

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