Tough Economic Times Sending Marfa Residents Back to the Polls

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

MARFA--The Marfa School Board has approved a tax rate ratification/rollback election, in which voters will have to decide whether or not they approve of an 8.6% school tax increase, the district says they desperately need.

"We feel that our children are just as deserving as any West Texas child of the most resources and advantages that we're not able to provide at this time," Superintendent Teloa Swinnea said.

For the second time in two years, Marfa ISD is operating with a deficit budget. That's why school officials are calling for the ratification/rollback election.

"We have a deficit budget this year of over $355,000. By asking for the election, if that becomes ratified, we will be able to whittle down that $355,000 to $45,000," Swinnea explained.

Marfa is neither a rich nor a poor school district. Superintendent Swinnea says they are right in the middle, almost like being between a rock and a hard place, "We are expected to do more, like all the other districts, with less. (We're) too poor to afford what we need but not poor enough to be eligible for the federal dollars."

If it's passed, the new tax rate of $1.5208 would ease the burden of having to do without it.

The students and staff are already feeling the pinch of a deficit budget. The Shorthorn football team is playing in a district playoff game on Friday. Thanks to budget cuts, a big group of their supporters won't be there to cheer them on.

"We travel on a limited basis. Our band does not go to any out of town football games," Swinnea said.

The district has already cut golf and cross country from the athletic roster. They are also operating without a school librarian and a school nurse. The tax increase would bring money back to the district before they're forced to cut back any more.

According to Swinnea, "When I think of other school districts our size, in our plight, Fine Arts go, Band programs go. We go, just down to the nuts and bolts of the core subjects that are required."

Balmorhea and Van Horn recently held similar elections. One was voted down by a huge margin and the other passed by just a few votes.

If the measure fails in Marfa, Swinnea fears there will be tougher times ahead, "Across the board, I think all the diverse groups in our community support us and our children, it just boils down to the economy."