Delaware Technical Community College would receive some of the additional funding it needs to pay for long-delayed infrastructure repairs under legislation passed by the Delaware Senate on March 26.
Prime sponsor Sen. Harris McDowell hailed the 19-1 vote as a major step forward in ensuring the school has the money it needs to fix leaky roofs, renovate HVAC systems and repair crumbling sidewalks at its four campuses throughout the state.
“Delaware Tech is the most affordable path our young people have to earn a degree,” said McDowell. “But after years of not getting the funding they need, many of the college’s buildings and classrooms are reaching levels of disrepair that are taking them out of use. Solving that crisis is one of the most important, most efficient steps this government can take to maintain a healthy economy and workforce in the First State. I’m glad to see that we are headed in that direction today.”
Del Tech is facing a backlog of more than $100 million worth of deferred maintenance at its campuses.
Unlike the University of Delaware and Delaware State University, Del Tech does not have access to dedicated revenue streams needed to sell bonds to finance ongoing capital improvements. Instead, it relies on an annual appropriation from the general assembly, which has averaged less than $5 million per year for deferred maintenance since 2005.
That’s short of the $12 million, or 3 percent of capital asset value, that industry standards say should be directed toward annual maintenance every year.
Under Senate Substitute 2 for Senate Bill 50, the Delaware General Assembly would pledge to allocate at least $10 million in capital funding to the school each of the next five years through the annual Bond and Capital Improvements Act.
No new property taxes would be required to fund that annual appropriation, which would require approval from the General Assembly each year like any other line item. Unlike an earlier proposal, it also would not benchmark Del Tech’s annual capital funding to the state’s K-12 public school infrastructure spending.
The final version of the bill also would grant Del Tech the ability to finance future projects through a bond sale if a dedicated funding stream to finance that debt is identified in the future.
“This is not the full solution we had hoped for at the start of the year, but it does provide us some certainty and allow us to plan for dealing with these structural issues in a thoughtful, rational way,” said Del Tech President Mark Brainard. “We are grateful to Sen. McDowell and Rep. Ed Osienski for working so hard to get us to this point.”
SS2 for SB50 is heading to the state House for final approval.