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Marlin property owners weigh in on proposed school tax increase

Marlin property owners weigh in on proposed school tax increase

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Marlin Primary Academy students change classes.

> MORE: Marlin hikes new teacher salaries by $15,000

Some property owners in Marlin said they are open to seeing a tax rate increase, as long as the school district doesn’t squander the money in its effort to keep the district open.

Voters could be asked to allow a tax rate hike next fall to pay for the teacher raises approved Tuesday by the Marlin Independent School District board of trustees. The board hopes the new salaries, which are higher than other districts in the area, will help recruit and retain high-quality teachers.

Each raise could be up to $15,000, which could cost the district an additional $750,000 annually.

Marlin Superintendent Michael Seabolt said the district could cover the cost of the salary increases from its $6 million fund balance, but to maintain the higher salaries indefinitely, the district would need to hike its maintenance and operation tax rate by 13 cents, from $1.04 per $100 of property valuation to $1.17.

The average home value in Marlin is about $38,000, Falls County Chief Appraiser Allen McKinley said. If voters approve a 13 cent tax rate hike, the average homeowner would see a $49.40 increase on the school tax, from $395.20 to $444.60.

If voters approve that rate, the district could receive a total of $700,000 in additional revenue, with $400,000 coming from the state and $300,000 coming from local revenue.

The debt service tax, collected along with the maintenance and operation tax, is 12 cents per $100 of property valuation, which adds about $45 to the average homeowner’s bill. The district has not proposed a change to the debt service rate.

Teacher turnover has hurt the district’s efforts to turn around its struggling schools.

The state revoked Marlin ISD’s accreditation in the fall after it failed state accountability standards for the fourth year in a row. The district’s board of trustees will be replaced with a state-appointed board of managers if the district fails its preliminary standards, normally released in August. If it fails its final results, which are normally released in October, the district will be closed permanently at the end of the 2016-17 school year.

If the district closes, the state will choose one or more districts to take over educating Marlin students. The Marlin ISD tax rate would be replaced with the new district’s rate.

Board President Roger Nutt said he’s open to the superintendent’s plan, but he hasn’t looked at any of the district’s financial numbers yet and wants to see the district’s revenue report before deciding how much to increase the tax rate.

Marlin ISD has never hosted a tax rate election, and its last school board election was in 2011.

Support for increase

Marlin resident Jay Butler said he would vote for a tax rate increase because he thinks the city’s greatest challenge is the residents’ inability to work together.

Butler said he’s tired of seeing Marlin languish in its depressed state and would be willing to step up and approve something good for the town.

“If it’s going to benefit the school, I’d vote for it,” he said.

Multiple business owners declined comment because of a lack of information about the proposal, but Tom Lewis, owner of Print Source on Live Oak Street, said he was expecting the local governments to begin raising taxes.

Lewis said he would vote for a tax increase, if the money would truly go toward benefiting the school.

“It’s going to take a tax increase to make Marlin a livable place,” Lewis said. “I’m OK with it as long as they’re spending the money wisely.”

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Related to this story

Marlin Independent School District Superintendent Michael Seabolt said during Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting that he thinks Commissioner Michael Williams will decide before the end of 2015 whether the district should stay open.

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