The Milford School Board voted to reduce the local school district property tax rate for 2011 on Monday, July 11. For the first time in 9 years the school district property tax in both Kent and Sussex Counties has been reduced at the same time; total change in Kent County 1.85%, Sussex County 1.84%.
Below the surface of board rooms, legislative hall and financial accounting is the reason why the school district property tax rate was able to be decreased across the two counties and what these efforts have brought to parents and children in the community. Due to a focus on keeping children with learning disabilities in our communities by training teachers to provide the necessary assistance programs Milford School District has been able to enhance the lives of these children and their parents while giving a tax break to property owner in the Milford School District.
Since the tax rate is a composite of 4 different areas (Current Expense, MCI, Tuition, Debt Service) it is the change in these rates that ultimately determine the tax rate. The Tuition tax rate showed the largest percentage difference of both Kent and Sussex County; 11.32% and 11.92% respectively. When the Milford School District cannot host children due to a mental or physically disability and students must go to another district to receive proper education assistance, Milford has to pay that school a tuition fee. These fees add up to the annual tuition rate which has been high is past years.
In an effort to keep these children in the Milford School District, where they live, there has been an increase in training for teachers to be able to offer the necessary programs for these students with special needs. Training of teachers in each school has been occurring for the last year and a half and has resulted in fewer children leaving the district in order to get a proper education and has created a decrease in the tuition rate.
“Keeping the children in the district helps the parents feel more accessible to us,” stated Superintendent Sharon Kanter. “Parents feel they can keep their children at home and work with the principal. The ultimate goal is to help mainstream the children.”
Jennifer Cinelli Miller is mother of one of these children who was able to stay in the Milford School District instead of sending her kid to the Cape Henlopen School District each day. Her daughter Liberty was diagnosed with high functioning Autism and has received services from Milford School District since she was in preschool at the age of 2. In her own words Jennifer has been “thrilled and amazed” by what the district has been able to do for Liberty. Jennifer wanted Liberty to attend Milford schools and be able to develop friendships with children in her own community. It was just as important for Jennifer herself to develop relationships with Liberty’s teachers and the parents of other children in Milford.
“My daughter’s friends all live in Milford and I want her to grow up in this community,” commented Jennifer. “This is such a closely knit community and Liberty has seen major improvements being able to participate with other children.”
Attending Milford Schools, Liberty has been able to participate in social thinking groups with other children. The goal of moving children towards inclusion into the classroom has helped Liberty progress as children with these disabilities do not usually have the chance to interact with kids their own age. These social thinking groups help these children to recognize facial expressions and normal behavior among their age group.
An increase in qualified teachers working with disabled children has led to an increase in special needs children remaining in the Milford School District. The ability to keep Milford children in Milford Schools has led to a decrease in the tuition rate Milford pays to other schools for receiving these children. The saving from this decrease in the tuition rate has allowed a decrease in expenses and supported the effort by the Milford School Board to decrease the local school district property tax.
Tax Rates Overview:
According to The Milford School District FY 2012 Tax Rates Overview, the proposed tax rates for the Milford School District are largely influenced by the annual “Assessment-To-Sales Ratio Study for Division III Equalization Funding” which is prepared for the State of Delaware Budget Office. The three districts of Milford, Woodbridge and Smyrna, which encompass property in two counties, use this report as a means of “equalizing tax rates across counties. In the past, the annual ratios have varied greatly from one year to the next and this has resulted in significant swings in the tax rates. Due to legislation recently passed in the Delaware House of Representatives, the assessment to sales ratio used to equalize Fiscal Year 2012 tax rates for districts that cross county lines will remain the same ratios that were in effect in Fiscal Year 2011. Since Sussex County properties have not been reassesses since 1974 and Kent County properties since 1986 ratios have been frozen until statewide reassessment occurs.