Outgoing Milford City Councilman: For Education, Against the Referendum

Dirk Gleysteen
Ward 2 Councilman

We love spending other people’s money. This is the cornerstone of the Milford School Districts campaign for the approval of a 21 million dollar bond to fund the building of a new school. Who wouldn’t want a 70 million dollar school for the price of $21 million? (Though we know that the other $49 million comes out of our pockets through Federal, State and other local taxes). It just sounds to good to be true, and it is. The problem with this type of funding is that it not only funds everything we need, it funds everything we could ever want, and encourages wasteful spending. I see absolutely no restraint on the part of the Milford School District to minimize the cost of funding the District’s needs for the citizens of Milford and other tax payers throughout the state. The argument is that Cape and Woodbridge Districts have done this, we’ll be left behind if we don’t.

When I reflect upon my grade school education, I couldn’t tell you much at all about the type of building my school was housed in. Everything was about the quality of education that the teachers provided, and that’s what is still important today. It’s true that the State has cut funding to the Milford School District by some $3.5 million, and this is what is urgently needed to get the District back on its feet. The Milford School District has done us all a disservice by piggybacking the required operational funding with a massive building project.

I suggest that we lead, not follow the examples put forth by others. Let’s go back to the drawing board and focus on what is truly the role of our schools, the quality of education. We will attract and grow this town in part by providng the BEST education in the state. Let’s look at the operational budget, starting with the $3.5 million of lost funding. Then, compare where we stand in providing the best teaching salaries in the state, and further increase our funding to those levels. Salaries and benefits attract the best and brightest, not the building they work in. This is the type of referendum that I could and would support.

As for the Middle School, we need to use it. Closing it down was a knee-jerk reaction to make an over-crowding issue in the other schools and force approval of this referendum. We don’t need to spend $30 million to bring it up to a like-new building. There is a number substantially lower than that (which the School Board has not disclosed) at which we will achieve the grade required by the state, where the state will again participate in the maintenance of the school. Then look at our needs and add on as required, there is plenty of space there.

LD Caulk next door to the Middle School is still using a building older than the Middle School for offices and manufacturing. Old buildings do have limitations, but they can be easily worked around. The University of Delaware has done this with substantially older buildings, we can do it too.
Listing the Milford Middle School on the list of Historic Places is a fine idea, but I believe one that has a very slim chance of being sold to a developer and placed back on the tax rolls. When asked at a City Council presentation what success this plan has had elsewhere in the State or on Delmarva, the School representative could not provide any examples.

The bottom line is this. We have an historic school, which has been part of the community for decades, and can still be functional if we wish it to be so. The referendum is for a building project, and will not improve our educational system beyond the point where it already is. Please vote no

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