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Smyrna Voters Support Overcrowding to Make a Point

October 21, 2006
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Smyrna voters have once again <a href=”http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061011/NEWS03/610110362/1006/NEWS”>shot down</a> a proposal for construction of new school buildings, including increased capacity at the high school, a new intermediate school, and new administrative space. Their reason? Some are “rebuking town and county officials for growth that’s outpaced the district’s capacity” while one feels that “developers haven’t invested enough in schools required by the families who move into their subdivisions”.

What?

When did it become the responsibility of developers to provide for the education of a growing area? When did it become acceptable to let the education of our children suffer to combat growth that’s going to happen anyways?

Other voters, such as Bill Henderson, express a more moderate opinion:

<blockquote>”While he generally supports increasing teacher salaries and adding classroom
space, he said the district shouldn’t ask taxpayers for new administrative
offices, given stagnating incomes and increasing energy costs.
‘I agree it
would be nice to have it, but I would ask you to sacrifice, also,’ he said.” (<a href=”http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2006610040309″>link</a&gt;)
</blockquote>

Granted, the current admin building is in an old post office, which is becoming cramped and has no handicapped facilities, but it seems reasonable to me if the district sucks it up a while longer and simply makes the current building handicapped accessible. Hell, they could use the trailers that the high school students are currently taking classes in if it gives them the 73 more votes needed to pass the tax increase.

What the people of Smyrna need to realize is that growth is going to continue happening, and the school system needs to roll with it. Their vote against this bill is not going to stop growth, but it is going to make educating their kids that much more difficult, and Delaware does not need more idiots. It’s fine to resist growth, but pick your battlefields more wisely.

An interesting tidbit from the PTA website, to prove that I’ve done a modicum of research:

<blockquote>”School overcrowding is another serious problem. Many schools are trying to reduce class sizes so students can receive the attention they need to succeed academically. In large classes, maintaining discipline can take teachers’ time and attention away from instruction. Large classes also make it more difficult to mainstream students with disabilities. Furthermore, overcrowding can limit instruction in subjects such as science, music, and art that require more space and special materials. Makeshift classrooms that schools are forced to carve from closets, corners, and hallways do not appropriately serve students’ learning needs and can have a detrimental effect on teacher and student morale. In addition, lack of space often impedes a school’s ability to offer before- and after-school enrichment opportunities and/or to create parent resource centers.”
(<a href=”http://www.pta.org/ia_pta_positions_1118177949953.html”>link</a&gt;)</blockquote>

<span style=”font-weight:bold;”>UPDATE:</span>
Well, it looks like I’m a giant jackass. Reading Nancy and Dana’s comments, it turns out that I was ignorant of what is called an Impact Tax. So, I did a little reading. Basically, an Impact Tax is an additional payment by a developer to cover local costs of facility improvement necessitated by development in an area. This tax is generally paid upon aquisition of the building permit. At this time, ~25 states support impact tax legislation, though there are many, Florida being the largest, that impose an impact tax without the support of state law. This doesn’t mean they are doing it illegally, but that it is controlled by the local government. The impact taxes are are used for expansion of such things as school capacity, libraries, parks, and sewer systems to help defray the cost of development to the local government, and through them, the taxpayers.

As it stands in Smyrna, there is an impact tax of a 1.25% fee on the assessed value of a new building per building permit, capping at $3,750 per permit.

Although I spoke without being completely informed about development situations, I still stand by my statement the people of Smyrna need to choose their battleground more wisely. To say that the new capacity will mainly benefit new children is a fallacy. These kids are coming whether there is a sufficient impact tax or not, and if they are placed in the currently overcrowded district as it is, it will affect all of the children negatively. I understand that Smyrna is considering a moratorium on new development, which I think would be a great idea until this is worked out.

I will also take a moment to make a personal point. This blog is going to be a learning experience for me even more than a platform for me to express my opinions, so I sincerely thank Dana and Nancy for helping me understand something new. I will always try my best to learn when I’m uninformed and to admit it when I’m flat-out wrong. So, again, heartfelt thanks!

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