Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor: Clarifying information about MPS land purchase, tax levy

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I am writing to correct and clarify information that has been presented in previous letters to the editor submitted by your readers.

First of all, I would like to address the purchase of the property at the corner of Watermill Road and Lincoln Street by the Marshall Public School District. The Board of Education looked at several other properties and found this one to be the best suited for the needs of the district. The two main questions that have been raised and seem to be repeated often are: 1) Why didn't the district purchase the Newel Property? 2) Why did the district "put the cart before the horse" when the voters haven't even passed a levy to build new buildings yet? Answers: When the district approached the owners of the Newell property, they had no interest in selling the property. The voters were given an opportunity several years ago to build on this property, but that option is no longer available. The reason that the district went ahead and purchased the property at the corner of Watermill Road and Lincoln Street before a tax levy was passed was due to the fact that when you put a piece of property up for a vote to build a new school, everyone has a different opinion of where the building should or should not go. The board of education settled this issue by buying the land. The District was also running out of available options for purchasing land. Many of the other properties that were once looked at besides the Newell property were not available for purchase either. I am going to give a little history lesson on Marshall Public Schools. When the school district purchased the land for the current Marshall High School it was not decided by a vote of the people to buy the land. The district bought it prior to the tax levy vote. According to Saline County records, the property was purchased in 1966, nearly10 years prior to the opening of the "New" High School. The Board of Education is an elected group of individuals to be representatives of the community as a whole. The Board of Education has the legal authority to make real estate purchases without a direct vote of the people.

The Board of Education was aware at the time of the purchase of the Watermill Road and Lincoln Street property that part of the property was not in the City Limits of Marshall. However, part of it is. The property has access to city sewer, water, and electricity. City leaders are aware of the need to do some upgrades to the city streets and sidewalks in that area of town.

Another incorrect statement that needs clarification is the process in which patrons can calculate their tax bill with the levy increase. You cannot take your tax bill and multiply it by 1.48 and come up with the correct cost. You first have to remove all taxes that are not related to the school district from your tax bill, then multiply by 1.48. So, city, county, fire district, water district, library, and any other tax will not be raised with the school tax levy increase. If you have further questions on how to calculate your taxes, then I would recommend contacting the Saline County Assessors office for an accurate figure.

The tax levy will only raise district revenue by just over $2.4 million dollars annually. The district has decided not to put a sunset clause on the proposed levy increase for a couple of reasons. The payout of the proposed building projects would be for 25 years. At the end of 25 years, the new buildings will not be so new anymore and will need to be maintained. The district will need the funds to keep the buildings in shape for the future generations of Marshall children. Also, after 25 years, the purchasing power of the levy will have greatly diminished, due to inflation. In 25 years, a dollar will no longer buy what it does today. By building the buildings now, the district is essentially locking in the building cost to today's dollars, which is a good strategy for the long- term financial health of the school district. If the voters do not approve the tax levy and punt the building issues down the road again, one of two things will occur: 1) The cost of building the same projects will be considerably more in the future or 2) What you can build with the same amount of dollars will decrease substantially.

I am going to leave you with this one last fact. Marshall Public Schools has not had a tax levy increase in 40 years.

Respectfully Submitted,

Mr. Ryan D. Huff, Superintendent, Marshall Public Schools