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Cape increases school tax rate

Taxpayers face $64 hike to pay for special education
July 21, 2017

The Cape Henlopen school board approved a 27-cent increase in the tax rate July 13, primarily to cover increasing costs for special education for six district students.

“This is hitting every district, not just us. We're playing catch up since our tax rate is too low to support the expenditures that are coming,” said Oliver Gumbs, director of business operations.

Gumbs said private, residential placements, which are very expensive, have doubled from three students last school year to six for the 2017-18 school year.

Gumbs said Cape's cost to send each of the six students to residential facilities is $100,000 each for a total of $600,000. Cape's share is only 30 percent of the total cost, which is $350,000, Gumbs estimated. The state pays the remaining 70 percent for a total of the cost.

Gumbs said the billing process has changed for students sent to residential care. Previously, districts sent their share of the bill to the state, but now, he said, the process is reversed; the state will send its share to districts, which will pay the residential facilities.

In previous years, there were questions about what services a child receives for the high cost of residential care. In 2013, neither state nor district officials could provide an itemized bill for expenses. Gumbs said the district receives a bill related to the number of days a student is in placement. Details of services are in a contract, which is confidential, he said.

In addition to increased costs for residential care, there is an increase in the cost for Academic Challenge. The cost for students to attend college courses at Delaware Technical Community College is budgeted at about $207,000 for 205 students – about $30,000 and 25 students more than last year. The cost to send 15 students to Howard T. Ennis has increased by about $4,500 per student for a total of $35,700 each, and two students will attend the G.W. Carver Alternative School in Indian River School District at a cost of $30,000 each.

Jason Bradley said members of the Citizens Budget Oversight Committee supported the increase after thoroughly reviewing district expenses.

During a recent meeting, he said, members spent more than an hour going over the tax rate. He assured board members that they carefully examined costs before supporting a tax increase. “We went over this in great detail,” he said.

Gumbs said the increase works out to about $64 a year for an average household.