Monday, April 14, 2008
An Open Letter to Mr. Michael E. Szymanczyk, Chairman & CEO, The Altria Group
Mr. Michael E. Szymanczyk
Chairman & CEO
The Altria Group
6601 West Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23230
Dear Mr. Szymanczyk,
I am writing in regard to the possible return of $708,000 from your subsidiary, Kraft General Foods, to the State of Delaware.
No, I'm not kidding.
Last week, Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner announced the award of this grant to help expand your plant in Dover, a project to which (as I understand it) Altria has already committed some $40 million. We appreciate the expansion of this plant, along with the forty new jobs it will create; like Governor Minner, I also enjoy Crystal Light Peach Iced Tea mix.
But as a parent of school-age children and as a Delaware taxpayer I'm asking you to consider returning the money.
Here's the situation: massive budget shortfalls in Delaware are about to result in the State having to ask each of our nineteen school districts to give back $8-10 million for the upcoming 2008-2009 academic year. This will translate into the loss of hundreds of teaching positions, the elimination of many desperately needed services for special needs students, and the curtailment of both after-school programs and athletics for thousands of Delaware school children.
I realize that the $708,000 Kraft received will only address a tiny percentage of Delaware's public education deficit.
I also realize that neither you nor any Delaware officials knew this would happen when you applied for the grant.
But I am equally certain that, given the commitment of the Altria Group to serving and improving the communities in which you have facilities (your website speaks of $1.4 BILLION in charitable contributions), you would not want to accept this money with the knowledge that it was funding plant expansion at the cost of educating the children of your workers.
My twins at HB DuPont Middle School and my grandson (who will start full-day kindergarten this fall if money can be restored to the program) appreciate your consideration of this request, as do I.