Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

Friday, April 1, 2016

I have written this "letter to the editor" as a way to answer questions that have been raised by patrons as they consider the proposed 27 cent levy. All figures shown in the letter come directly from Marshall Public Schools or records the district has filed with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The last increase to the operating fund occurred in 2003 when the levy in the Debt Service Fund was rolled in to the Operating Fund. The levy since that time has been adjusted a number of times, usually to a lower amount as required by state regulations. These adjustments in our levy were made necessary due to our increasing assessed valuation. Our assessed valuation increased from $117,579,655 in 2004-2005 to $164,913,198 in 2015-2016. Even with a lower levy the district has experienced an increase in its cash reserve of $3,188,606 during the past five years. The cash reserve at the beginning of this year was $5,956,375 and the latest forecast is that the cash reserve will increase again this year.

Our levy declined from 3.33 in 2004-2005 to 2.75 this year and the increase in our assessed valuation has keep pace with our need. Now we need to look at our sources of revenue and how they may have changed. County taxes are collected and given to the districts based on the number of students each has. County revenue comes from RR and utilities and fines and forfeitures. In 2004-2005, our district received $1,102,841 and in 2015-2016 will receive $2,683,008 from county revenue. State revenue has also increased during this period. In 2004-2005 the district received $9,251,523 and in 2015-2016 will receive $10,466,414. Federal revenue in 2004-2005 totaled $2,293,014 and increased to $2,788,965 in 2014-2015. The district's total revenue increased by $3,957,066 during the past 10 years and our cash reserve has increased to $5,956,375 and using the latest budget data listed in The Marshall Democrat-News, one might consider that the district's cash reserve will increase by $139,284.

When looking at the economic well being of a district, one must also consider how revenue from all sources may have changed over time, review expenses that may have increased at a grater rate than others, and additional ways to realize savings should be explored. All of these approaches can add to the economic health of a district.

As we consider the increase in the district's assessed valuation during the past 10 years, the current cash reserve and how both of these could increase over the next 10 years, it seems reasonable to question the need for an increase of 27 cents in our levy at this time. The proposed 27 cents should yield as much as $579,000 using the collection rate of 95 percent -- the same rate used by the district when calculating local revenue. The article in MDN describes how the district might save $69,000 by getting rid of the trailers and moving out of Prairie View. This amount of savings will only be possible after "permanent structures" are added to our existing campuses. Spending some of our current cash reserve to reduce the planned lease purchase might save the district much more money. Last year we received only $19,000 from interest on our cash reserve of $4,290,111 and revenues totaling $24,479,864. We also paid a total of $91,934 in interest in our current lease purchase. Since interest rates are so low on savings, why should we continue adding to our cash reserve instead of funding some of the projects being considered; instead of looking for more ways to go into debt and pay even more interest.

You patrons will have to figure it out, I can't. See you at the polls.

Roger Blakely, Marshall
Retired school administrator