GOP, Seniors, Schools Voice Concern Over Gov. Markell Budget - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

GOP, Seniors, Schools Voice Concern Over Gov. Markell Budget

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DOVER, Del.- Debate continues to rise over subsidies, taxing, and senior citizens in Delaware. It all started with a Budget proposal from Gov. Jack Markell. More to the point, the debate all centers on one aspect of the budget, regarding the "Elder Tax Subsidy."

Markell's proposal called for the reduction of the Elder Tax Subsidy, which would essentially mean higher school taxes for those impacted senior citizens. Markell has argued that the reasoning for the change is simple.

""It's growing at a rate that's not sustainable," he said of the subsidy. "And frankly getting out of control."

Currently the state pays for 50 percent - or up to $500 - of the school taxes for qualified senior citizens. This plan, proposed by Markell would cut that subsidy in half to just 25 percent, maxing out at $250. That would mean an increase of up to $250 in taxes for senior citizens.

"In today's climate we can no longer afford what we could in the past," said Jonathon Dworkin, Markell's Director of Strategic Communications.

In 2001, Dworkin said that the program cost the state $8.7 million. Now he said that cost has jumped to $23 million, primarily due to the rising elderly population. Over the next decade, Dworkin said that this cost will skyrocket to $46 million.

In response to the proposal, every single GOP member of the House and Senate signed a letter in opposition. House Minority Leader Dan Short, of Seaford said that the plan can hurt both seniors and the school districts.

"It's a new tax," he said. "That they're going to have to pay, which they otherwise have been allowed to have a waiver on. So it's re-imposing a tax upon someone. It's not anything but a tax."

Short said that this change would hurt the chances of a successful referendum as well. He said seniors would likely be hesitant to approve a referendum for higher taxes, if they are to face a $250 increase from the start.

Joanna Adams of the Seaford School District said that the impacts would likely hit all schools looking for a referendum. Seaford tried in 2014 to pass a referendum, which was denied.

"If an additional $250 comes out of their pockets," she said. "That they haven't had to pay before - then they're not going to - they're going to think twice about voting yes."

On February 24, there will be two referendum in the Red Clay School District and the Christiana School District. Meanwhile, Milford expects to hold a referendum on March 31.

The Joint Finance Committee is currently holding hearings on the proposed budget. They will then submit an amended version to be voted on by the whole General Assembly.

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