WM voters pass property tax increase

Administrators thank community, discuss potential uses for funds

Large

Large

STATE CENTER — West Marshall Community School District voters have spoken, and an increase in the district’s Physical Plant Equipment Levy (PPEL) rate was approved in a special election Tuesday.

“That says a lot about our community,” said district Superintendent Jacy Large of the majority who voted in favor of the measure. According to the Marshall County Auditor’s office, 67 percent of 528 voters were in favor of the increase (356 voting yes and 172 against).

Large said he was “hopeful” the measure would pass, and he said he was “ecstatic” upon learning the result.

“It’s a great deal,” he said. “To pull this through for the first time ever, that’s a big win for us.”

The increase approved was $1 per $1,000 of the assessed valuation of the taxable property within the school district. That dollar will be added on to the existing 33-cent PPEL for a total levy rate of $1.33 per $1,000 of assessed valuation of taxable property.

Large said the figure is still lower than the maximum allowed levy rate of $1.67, and the total annual revenue from the $1.33 comes to $320,000 in revenue for the district, a $240,000 increase.

The PPEL money must be used for infrastructure and technology costs and will not be used for other purposes due to strict limits placed by the state. The measure is to stay in effect for 10 years.

Some possibilities named for the increased PPEL funds include renovating the third floor of the fourth- and fifth grade building at 214 W. Main St. in State Center, paying for technology fees and renovating the heating and cooling system at the high school.

“There’s a little bit of a buzz in the air, kind of an excitement about the prospects of things that could happen,” said West Marshall High School Principal Kristian Einsweiler. “We’re really appreciative of the community that showed up to support our school and to support some potential changes that we really thing would help our kids in the long run.”

While no projects are set in stone unless the school board approves, Einsweiler said fixing the heating and cooling system at the high school would benefit students.

“This would also help our kids have the ability to focus and learn in the classroom,” he said. “These old cinder blocks, they heat up and hold heat, and it’s just really hard to get it cooled down.”

Einsweiler added that the building can often take a long time to heat up on cold days, making parts of the building unpleasantly frigid. He said students and teachers conversed about the vote before Tuesday’s election.

“Our teachers had some conversations because kids were asking questions about it,” he said. “I think they have an idea of what’s there and what could happen.”

Einsweiler said the school board put together “a pretty darn good list” of potential uses for the PPEL funds before the vote, and said he’s excited to see how the board decides to use the revenue.

Large said such decisions are forthcoming, adding the reason for raising the property tax rate was because income surtax revenues cannot be used to buy down a loan taken out by the district.

“When you have to take a loan out of the bank, you can’t use income surtax to pay down a loan, you have to use property tax,” he said. “When those discussions were held, we were very clear and transparent that it would be the property tax and, if passed, we would use monies out of the general fund to help buy down the overall tax base as well.”

Einsweiler said teachers were appreciative of voters’ approval of the measure.

“That reminds our staff that there are people out in the community who see the school and understand it’s place and the things it does for this community and are willing to give a little bit back to it,” he said.

A special school board budget meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. April 12 at WMHS, 601 3rd St. N.W. in State Center. A regular school board meeting will follow at 6 p.m.