The Smyrna Board of Education held its reorganization meeting Thursday morning at the Central Administration Building.

At the meeting, newly elected school board member Kristi Lloyd was sworn so she could officially begin her five-year term.

School board member Jeff Clark was elected the president for the 2013-14 school year while school board member Christine Malec was elected the vice president.

The BOE also reaffirmed Smyrna School District Superintendent Debbie Wicks as the executive secretary for the school board, and Assistant Superintendent Patrik Williams as the assistant secretary for the school board.

Tax increase, preliminary budget approved

The school board approved the Fiscal Year 2014 tax rate, which has a 6.9 percent increase over last year's tax rate.

Finance Director Jerry Gallagher went over the tax increase with the school board prior to the vote. Based on the discussion at their June meeting, Gallagher proposed a Kent County school tax rate of $1.4161 per $100 of assessed value. The proposed rate for New Castle County was $1.1267.

Gallagher pointed out to the board that while the district does continue to grow in terms of residential housing, the rate of the growth has slowed down. Three years ago the district grew by 6.7 percent, two years the district grew by 3.7 percent, last year the district grew by 2.9 percent and this year the district grew by two percent.

Gallagher reminded the board that while the district has different rates for New Castle County and Kent County residents, a home valued at the same amount in the two counties would pay similar values. He said a resident in Kent County with the average assessment of $32,448 would have a tax bill of $459. A resident in New Castle County with the average assessment of $46,746 would have a tax bill of $526.

Gallagher said it's difficult to compare tax rates across all the school districts because each county uses different assessment practices. However, the Department of Education provides a table taking all the differences into consideration in an attempt to account for all the information so they can make comparisons across the district.

"Last year with the tax rates that we had, our overall tax rate was 14th out of the 16 school districts," Gallagher said.

Gallagher said even with the 6.9 percent tax rate increase this year, the district could still have the 14th lowest tax rate depending on whether or not other districts change their tax rate.

School board member Ron Eby pointed out that even with the possible tax increase, the district is facing a $670,000 budget deficit in the 2014 budget.

Gallagher said Eby is correct and that the district is leaving six vacancies to cut the budget.

"What we're looking at in terms of the deficit is attributable to the reduction we've received in state funding over the course of the last couple of years," Gallagher said.

Prior to voting on the tax increase, School Board President Jeff Clark said the tax increase seemed well thought out and it helps to partially address the deficit. With that, the board approved the tax increase by a 4-0 vote; School Board Vice President Christine Malec wasn't at the meeting to vote.

The school board also went on to approve the fiscal year 2014 preliminary budget, which does at this point include a $670,000 deficit.

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