Bill that would allow school boards to hike taxes without taxpayer OK introduced

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Legislation that would allow school boards to approve small yearly increases in the property tax levy has been introduced by a group of Democratic legislators.

The bill would allow boards to OK tax increases that match the consumer price index (cost of living) or two percent a year.

The measure comes after Christina School District voters in northern New Castle County last week defeated a referendum calling for a property tax hike by a lopsided margin. The Christina board responded Tuesday night by ordering the elimination of a few positions and the nonrenewal of dozens of contracts.

(See text of the bill below)

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On Tuesday night voters in. the Indian River School District turned down a second referendum request by a narrow margin.

The proposed legislation produced an immediate outcry from some voters, who said their rights would be taken away by the legislation.

Delaware finances a large percentage of the costs of school operations through state funding that allocates a set amount per student.

However, districts facing budget constraints have to go to voters to increase their operating budgets as well as capital projects such as renovations or new school construction.

Critics of the Christina District claim the mismanagement has caused many of its problems. The district has lost enrollment as students have moved to charter and other schools.

The district also has little or no new construction, which eliminates the lucrative impact fees and a growing tax base that bolsters the finances of fast-growing districts.

Legislators sponsoring the legislation have ties and constituents in the sprawling Christina District, which includes the Newark and Bear-Glasgow areas, with a small section extending into the City of Wilmington.

Also looming on the horizon is a lawsuit in Chancery Court that claims the current school funding formula is unconstitutional for reasons that include a tendency to reward affluent districts with a lower percentage of students in need of more intensive instruction.

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