I fully expect you’ll carefully scrutinize our ranking of great places to live. The numbers tell one story, so you may be surprised by some of the results. But numbers don’t explain everything. If I may, a few observations:
The top three places to live according to DT—Lewes, Dover and Greenville, in that order—couldn’t be more different. That’s great. To me, it means there is a home for every taste. One thing those areas have in common, though, is a deep sense of place. There’s a history and a unique character to each, which is something to treasure.
Because the quality of schools is the biggest factor in the ranking, downstate towns dominate the upper half of our list. All six beach towns appear in there—four in the top 10. Why? Cape Henlopen and Indian River, the districts that cover most of Coastal Sussex, rank No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
Only four places in Northern New Castle County—the most populated part of the state—make the top half of the list. North Wilmington and Claymont make the top 10 largely because of good Brandywine district schools. Greenville rings high because local kids attend the very good A.I. duPont. Other areas in the Red Clay district, like Pike Creek—an otherwise excellent place to live—are dragged down by the poor performance of other schools.
So there’s a question to ask: Why are most of our students going to the worst schools?
And as we discovered when we ranked public schools in the January issue, there is no correlation between tax rates and school performance. Middletown-Odessa-Townsend area residents pay some of the lowest property taxes, yet it has the very best schools.
It seems that property tax rates, based as they are on the assessed value of a home, should look much different. Median home prices (not to be confused with assessed value) in Greenville are among the highest in the state, yet the tax rate is relatively low. Residents of Selbyville and Bridgeville pay far more than homeowners in the beach towns, despite huge disparities in housing costs. I’ll remind our legislators that it’s time to reassess. I know it’s not the most politically popular thing, but it’s only fair.
Poor Wilmington. Inconsistent tax rates, school feeder patterns that seriously, in my opinion, need to be re-evaluated, and pockets of high crime diminish the overall quality of life as presented in the ranking. There are very nice places to live in the city, and I’ll proudly be one of its biggest cheerleaders.
We’d love to hear from other hometown cheerleaders, too, so please take a good look. If you have a thought, we welcome your comments.