Accuracy Matters

I wrote up a short email to the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) tonight after learning that a member of the commission has, again, stated inaccurate information regarding the New Castle County Tax Pool and its distribution to the 4 districts that participate in it.  I do know that more than one correction attempt has been made but the inaccuracy persists.

I know WEIC has a seemingly impossible task to accomplish and I know there’s a nearly incomprehensible amount of information out there about finances and funding alone, but when you give out inaccurate information and accurate information is offered back to you, own it and acknowledge it.  The tax pool might not seem like a major bullet point when it comes to the funding portion of WEIC but it matters.  If you’re wondering, the inaccurate statement was along the lines of Red Clay paying money to Christina, Brandywine, and Colonial through the tax pool.  Essentially, Red Clay is the only “giver” in the pool, everyone else is a “taker”.  There was a time when that was accurate but that was more than 5 years ago.  Since then BOTH Red Clay and Christina contribute more to the pool than they get back.  BOTH.  Whether you personally believe that or not, numbers don’t lie.

In the context of explaining to Red Clay residents that WEIC is charged with implementing a plan to merge all Wilmington schools into the district that does not adversely affect Red Clay tax payers, saying that Red Clay pays money to everyone else in the pool (suggesting an existing adverse relationship between the pool recipients and Red Clay taxpayers), that’s a big snafu carrying a big negative connotation. And it needs to stop yesterday.  The email I sent is below:

Tax_Pool_Specifics

To the Members of the Wilmington Education Improvement Committee;

It was brought to my attention that a member of the Commission has again publicly disseminated incorrect information regarding the distribution of tax receipts from the New Castle County Tax District (AKA- the tax pool) to the 4 participating public school districts in the county.

The comment was to the effect of, Red Clay Consolidated School District pays money to the other three districts, Brandywine, Christina, and Colonial, through the tax pool.  At one time, this was an accurate statement.  For the last several years however, Red Clay and Christina have paid out more to the pool than they received back.  The change occurred when needs-based funding was piloted in the Brandywine School District resulting in Christina and Red Clay both becoming net contributors (paying more money in than they receive back) and Brandywine and Colonial becoming net beneficiaries (receiving more out of the pool than they contribute).

Please reference the attached image detailing the tax pool collection and distribution for fiscal year 2015.  Note that Christina and Red Clay both are allocated less from the pool than they contribute (indicated in the far right column).

I understand WEIC is tasked with an incredibly complex task and an incredibly short time period to accomplish it and that errors will be made in the presentation of information but I urge the commission to acknowledge errant information and abstain from disseminating it further.  Funding is one of several hot-button topics, and I feel it is crucial to utilize accurate information whenever possible.  Please feel free to contact me with questions, concerns or comments.  Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Brian Stephan
Parent, Keene Elementary 1st Grader & Gauger-Cobbs Middle 6th Grader
Christina School District Citizen’s Budget Oversight Committee
brianstephan@gmail.com

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