IRSD sets new property tax rate with 52-cent increase

The Indian River School District this week approved the tax rate for this autumn.

For the 2018 fiscal year, the property tax rate will increase from $2.578 to $3.097 per $100 assessed value (which, in Sussex County, is much less than actual appraised real estate value).

Some rates change each year, while others only change with public approval. The following changes were made from the 2017 fiscal year to the 2018 fiscal year:

• Current expense (increases by 49 cents from $1.86 to $2.35)

• Debt service (decreases by 2.2 cents $0.216 to $0.194)

• Tuition (increases 5 cents from $0.47 to $0.52)

• Minor cap (increases .01 cent from $0.032 to $0.033).

The capitation rate is unchanged, at $12 per adult.

The public approved an increase in current expense taxes with a March 2017 referendum. Debt service decreased as IRSD pays off old construction loans. Tuition fluctuates every year for special student needs, such as autism or homebound instruction. Minor capital improvement money is based on State matching funds.

Although the board unanimously approved the figure on June 19, they may have to revisit it after June 30, depending on the new fiscal year’s finances.

Meanwhile, the IRSD received an additional $50,000 in tax money this year, due to penalties and interest for late payments, said Director of Business Jan Steele. That means the IRSD received more than 100 percent of its expected tax revenue for 2016-2017.

IRSD improve budget oversight

After receiving 36 applicants, the IRSD selected 10 volunteers to serve on the revamped Citizens Budget Oversight Committee. They’ll be specially trained to understand, review and contribute to regular discussions on IRSD budgets.

The goal is transparency, to ensure that public stakeholders can provide input on district finances.

“I think we have a well-rounded group of people,” Steele said. “I’m excited to have this up and running and get some input.”

Members include Justen Albright, Gary Brittingham, Morley Daehn Jr., Kathleen Evans, Greg Goldman, Linda Lewis, Dave Marvel, Austin Short, Rose Watkins and Chris White.

They will be joined by Superintendent Mark Steele and Director of Business Jan Steele (no relation).

They will serve two-year terms but may continue beyond that, with board approval. Meetings will be at least quarterly, with regular reports at public school board meetings.

“The committee may also meet in conjunction with the district’s established Finance Committee at the discretion of the superintendent and/or Board president,” the district stated.

In July, they will receive the same financial training that regular board members typically receive. Education finances are considered particularly complex, due to the many incoming pots of money and strings attached to each. Even IRSD board members have been asking more questions lately, since the Delaware Auditor of Accounts’ 2016 criticism of the district’s financial oversight and management.

The IRSD had a similar group years ago, which eventually evolved into the present-day Finance Committee, whose meetings are open to the public but typically attended only by IRSD administrators and staff. The new citizens committee was developed in accordance with Delaware Code and Delaware Department of Education regulations.