Dear President Landgraf,
I would like to address your comments, which were most welcome, at the Kent County Commissioners‘ meeting on June 5, 2018; and, your letter to Commissioner Pickrum dated June 1, 2018. concerning the $580,000 shortfall in the budget for The Kent County Board of Education. As the President of Washington College, you are one of the pillars of this community, and your words in a public forum have weight. I want you to know that I listened to you and have thought about your words. No one wants the schools in Kent County to fail, most especially the Commissioners; in fact, we are all products of this school system. We were all born and raised here, and this County has deep familial and cultural roots for each one of us.
During your tenure at the Educational Testing Service [ETS), you led the financial turnaround of the organization from near-bankruptcy to create a $1.6 billion global, technology-based concern. In this endeavor, I’m sure you faced some tough business decisions that affected the lives and livelihood of individuals globally. Therefore, you can understand the dilemma of the Commissioners being forced to decide on investing on economic development or investing in our children. At first blush, it seems to be an obvious choice — except, it is not. You state in your letter, “I would like to have more of our faculty and staff choose to live locally, rather than commuting from Annapolis and Middletown.”
I could not agree with your more; however, without proper economic investment, where will they be living and what sorts of commerce will they have locally? The “economic development or education investment” the question is as perplexing as the chicken or the egg causality dilemma.
After thinking about your comments, I believe the communities frustration of this issue stems from approaching it the same way, but expecting a different solution.
In your letter you state, “The investment in public education is the single greatest way to help the college and every other business that calls Kent County home.” I could not agree with you more, and every business, and every person pays their fair share of property tax, with the exception of Washington College. If Washington College paid county tax on the full assessable base of all its properties, the County would receive $837,382. Washington College actually pays $65,541, so there is a loss of $771,841 due to the tax-exempt status of the properties. These figures do not include State and town taxes.
I’m not suggesting that Washington College should not receive benefits offered by the State, but if Washington College gave less than 5% of the interest made from its endowments, Kent County could work to match those funds to meet this continuous shortfall facing our educational system. If Washington College could commit to meeting the County half way ($290,000), this could open the gateway for the County to partner with the College to ﬁnd a new solution to this issue. Our economic investments will mature in 10 years; so, will Washington College partner with Kent County for the upcoming 10 years [$2.9 million) to make a community for your faculty and staff to live locally? As you aptly said, “Our decisions about funding public education have lifelong consequences.”
Commissioner of Kent County