Delaware Judge Upholds Election Approving Tax Hike - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Judge Upholds Election Approving Tax Hike

Posted: Updated:

DOVER, Del. (AP)- A Delaware judge on Wednesday upheld a local school district election in which residents approved a property tax increase, despite finding that the district's advocacy for the tax hike violated a provision in Delaware's constitution aimed at ensuring free and equal elections.
    
In a 186-page ruling, Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster said the Red Clay district violated the constitution's elections clause by holding 75 family-focused events at 23 school building polling places on the day of the vote. The events, he said, served as targeted rewards for families of Red Clay students and drew them to the polls "en masse."
    
"An election is not 'free and equal' when the government provides targeted rewards for voting to a group it believes will support its favored position," wrote Laster, who noted that the events also resulted in crowded parking lots that interfered with access to the polls for some elderly and disabled residents.
    
"An election in which the government obstructs the ability of elderly and disabled voters to access the polls is not 'free and equal," Laster wrote.
    
The judge also said Red Clay violated the elections clause by engaging in an aggressive, one-side campaign in favor of the tax increase that exceeded the limited advocacy permitted under state law.
    
The district's tactics included using confidential information about Red Clay families to promote voting by parents, assigning each school a goal for "Yes" voters, and having teachers place stickers on their elementary school students on election day as a reminder for parents to vote.
    
Despite such conduct, Laster upheld the election results, saying there was no evidence that officials acted with ill will or in bad faith, but instead had the laudable goal of ensuring adequate school funding.
    
"Although this case focuses on Red Clay's election-related conduct, it stems from dysfunction in Delaware's system for funding public schools," the judge wrote.
    
Laster noted that, for a variety of reasons, New Castle County has not reassessed property values since 1983. Similarly, Kent and Sussex counties have not updated their assessments since 1987 and 1974, respectively.
    
Laster noted that if a county conducts periodic reassessments, as called for in state law, the underlying tax base would rise as property values increased. Accordingly, the same tax rate would generate more money for school districts, which would not have to seek tax increases as frequently.
    
"In my view, Delaware's statutory framework is not supposed to force school districts into a vicious cycle of regular referendums," the judge wrote. "But without action by the political branches, school districts must resort to the only tool they have: the referendum process."
    
Kathleen MacRae, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of a district resident and her elderly parents, described Wednesday's ruling as a victory for democracy.
    
"Government, including school districts, cannot use their power to rig elections in violation of state law ... School district and other officials up and down state are now on notice that Red Clay's conduct crossed the line," she said.
    
The Red Clay election, in which residents voted 6,395 to 5,515 for the tax increase, resulted in a failed effort in the General Assembly to mandate that all school elections in Delaware be conducted by mail and be limited to registered voters. The bill also would have limited school districts to one tax referendum per year.
    
A Red Clay spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

  • Delmarvawide NewsDelmarvawide NewsMore>>

  • No Winning Powerball Ticket on Delmarva, but Smaller Prizes Prevail

    Powerball Jackpot Prize Up To $700 Million Dollars

    08/23/2017 22:49:00 -04:002017-08-24 02:49:00 GMT
    Thursday, August 24 2017 4:50 AM EDT2017-08-24 08:50:39 GMT
    Powerball Tickets Being Printed (WBOC PHOTO)Powerball Tickets Being Printed (WBOC PHOTO)
    Wednesday's $758,700,000 Powerball Jackpot was hit by a ticket holder in Massachusetts, but players in Delaware and Maryland didn't go home completely empty-handed.More
    Wednesday's $758,700,000 Powerball Jackpot was hit by a ticket holder in Massachusetts, but players in Delaware and Maryland didn't go home completely empty-handed.More
  • Man Who Was Shot By Del. State Trooper Loses Lawsuit

    Man Who Was Shot By Del. State Trooper Loses Lawsuit

    Thursday, August 24 2017 4:34 AM EDT2017-08-24 08:34:42 GMT
    Thursday, August 24 2017 4:34 AM EDT2017-08-24 08:34:42 GMT
    DOVER, Del. (AP) - A judge has ruled in favor of Delaware State Police in a lawsuit filed by a man who was shot in the back by a trooper in 2013. The judge on Wednesday rejected Keith Schueller's claims of gross negligence, battery and intentional inflicMore
    DOVER, Del. (AP) - A judge has ruled in favor of Delaware State Police in a lawsuit filed by a man who was shot in the back by a trooper in 2013. The judge on Wednesday rejected Keith Schueller's claims of gross negligence, battery and intentional inflicMore
  • Storm Water Project on Williams Street in Berlin

    Storm Water Project on Williams Street in Berlin

    Thursday, August 24 2017 4:31 AM EDT2017-08-24 08:31:24 GMT
    Thursday, August 24 2017 4:31 AM EDT2017-08-24 08:31:24 GMT
    Summertime is coming to an end, but it isn't stopping construction in the town of Berlin. The town is preparing for phase 2 of the stormwater project.More
    Summertime is coming to an end, but it isn't stopping construction in the town of Berlin. The town is preparing for phase 2 of the stormwater project.More
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Sussex County Drug Unit Arrests 14 in Drug Investigation

    Sussex County Drug Unit Arrests 14 in Drug Investigation

    08/23/2017 13:29:00 -04:002017-08-23 17:29:00 GMT
    Wednesday, August 23 2017 1:41 PM EDT2017-08-23 17:41:30 GMT
    Janie Handy, Jayquan Bland, Delane Jacobs; DSPDJanie Handy, Jayquan Bland, Delane Jacobs; DSPD
    SELBYVILLE AND FRANKFORD, Del.-- The Delaware State Police Sussex County Drug Unit has charged fourteen people following a three-month long drug investigation in the Pollybranch area of Selbyville.On Tuesday, DSP along with investigators from seven otherMore
    SELBYVILLE AND FRANKFORD, Del.-- The Delaware State Police Sussex County Drug Unit has charged fourteen people following a three-month long drug investigation in the Pollybranch area of Selbyville.More
  • Trial Nears for Alleged Leader of Delaware Criminal Network

    Trial Nears for Alleged Leader of Delaware Criminal Network

    Wednesday, August 23 2017 4:48 AM EDT2017-08-23 08:48:13 GMT
    Wednesday, August 23 2017 4:48 AM EDT2017-08-23 08:48:13 GMT
    Steven Kellam (Photo: Delaware State Police)Steven Kellam (Photo: Delaware State Police)
    A judge is holding a final case review in the prosecution of the alleged ringleader of an organized crime gang that operated in central and southern Delaware.More
    A judge is holding a final case review in the prosecution of the alleged ringleader of an organized crime gang that operated in central and southern Delaware.More
  • Delaware State Police Investigates Chicken Truck Crash

    Delaware State Police Investigates Chicken Truck Crash

    08/23/2017 21:51:00 -04:002017-08-24 01:51:00 GMT
    Wednesday, August 23 2017 9:51 PM EDT2017-08-24 01:51:50 GMT
    MILFORD, Del.- Delaware State Police are investigating a crash involving a chicken truck Tuesday in Milford. Police said 43-year-old Donald Jones, of Dover, was driving a tractor trailer when he crossed over Coastal Highway near Bakersfield RoaMore
    Delaware State Police are investigating a crash involving a chicken truck Tuesday in Milford.More
  • Most Popular VideosMost Popular VideosMore>>

  • Neighbors React to Easton Recovery Home

    Neighbors React to Easton Recovery Home

    The Humble House has some neighbors like Michael Engels more than just worried.

    "The last thing I want to do is to find out there's a halfway house within walking distance from where my children will be playing and living," Engels said.

    Upset with what's just down the street, Engels says he's considering moving.

    More

    The Humble House has some neighbors like Michael Engels more than just worried.

    "The last thing I want to do is to find out there's a halfway house within walking distance from where my children will be playing and living," Engels said.

    Upset with what's just down the street, Engels says he's considering moving.

    More
  • Girl Spreads Love, Hugs to Talbot County First Responders

    Girl Spreads Love, Hugs to Talbot County First Responders

    "Our heroes are getting hurt and I want to do this," said seven year-old, Rosalyn Baldwin.

    Rosalyn has made it her mission to spread infectious hugs across all fifty states. On Wednesday morning, Maryland became her seventeenth.

    First responders from all of Talbot County's agencies and Maryland State Police each received one of Rosalyn's special hugs. Her mom says those hugs come with a message.

    More

    "Our heroes are getting hurt and I want to do this," said seven year-old, Rosalyn Baldwin.

    Rosalyn has made it her mission to spread infectious hugs across all fifty states. On Wednesday morning, Maryland became her seventeenth.

    First responders from all of Talbot County's agencies and Maryland State Police each received one of Rosalyn's special hugs. Her mom says those hugs come with a message.

    More
  • Dirt Bikes Continue to Ride Through Salisbury

    Dirt Bikes Continue to Ride Through Salisbury

    People in Salisbury said they want to see something done about the dirt bikes riding on main roads and neighborhoods. 

    The Salisbury Police Department is asking the public to help identify dirt bikers that were spotted on Salisbury's streets earlier this week.

    More

    People in Salisbury said they want to see something done about the dirt bikes riding on main roads and neighborhoods. 

    The Salisbury Police Department is asking the public to help identify dirt bikers that were spotted on Salisbury's streets earlier this week.

    More
Powered by Frankly

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 WBOC. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices