Reports recently surfaced that Marfa I.S.D.’s band program may have to be cut soon due to a sizable budget deficit at the district.
CBS 7 reported that the district is facing a nearly $400,000 deficit, due in large part to the complicated way rising property values in Marfa affect the amount of money the district gets from the state, and the fees the district has to pay.
Marfa I.S.D. Superintendent Andrew Peters spoke with CBS 7:
Rarely do a handful of homes in Marfa get sold each year, but when they do those sales increase property values throughout town, creating a headache for many including Peters.
“If Austin thinks our [property] values should be higher than they are, or if we cant get the local appraisal district to raise it, or Austin to lower it, then we get punished by the state,” Peters said. “The state says, your property values aren’t as high as they should be therefore we’re going to give the schools less money.”
It’s an unpredictable and never ending cycle that’s costing the city just over $260,000 in penaties every year according to Peters.
“So the state takes money from us twice: once as the [property] values go up, and a second time, because they don’t go up in the anticipation that the state wants them to,” Peters said.
In an interview Thursday morning, Peters confirmed that the district’s band program will be cut this year.
“It’s happening,” he said. “School’s about to start. We’re not going to have a band program in the fall for sure, we don’t have a band director.”
Peters also joined us to explain how exactly Marfa’s rising property values have led to budget problems at this small rural school district.
He explained that schools in Texas are funded partially by property taxes and partially by the state. Texas also has laws aimed at keeping property taxes fair across the state. The idea, according to Peters, is to avoid a local taxable entity (say, a school district) from holding onto low property values to be eligible for greater funding from the state.
“Here in Marfa, we have the unique situation in that our property values are going up,” he said. “Which can be a good thing, but for the school, it’s not.”
“Because there’s some unique [property] sales here, the comptroller’s office in Austin looks at our values and they say, ‘hey Marfa I.S.D., they’re not high enough,'” Peters said. “I know that’s hard for the local folks to believe, but that’s what they say in Austin.”