Cut Marshall Tax Levy Rate

Despite an enormous increase in Marshall County’s tax base, the board of education refused to reduce levy rates last year. But what happened in 2012 was, well, peanuts compared to what will happen this year, county Assessor Chris Kessler has reported.

At about this time last year, Kessler reported the taxable value of property in the county had increased by $335 million during the previous year. Because taxes are collected as percentages of the value of property, that meant increased revenue for taxing bodies such as the board of education and the county commission.

County commissioners reacted by lowering their levy rate by 13.4 percent. That saved property owners money on their tax bills.

But the board of education did not change its levy rate. Board members said their action would cost the average taxpayer only about $4.25 a year more.

When Kessler added up the value of taxable property this year, the result was astonishing: The total has increased by another $577.2 million, Kessler reported.

That means even more revenue for taxing bodies such as the board, unless levy rates are lowered.

Kessler is calling on the board to reduce levy rates. Unless it does, taxes will go up by millions of dollars during the next few years, he estimated.

School Superintendent Fred Renzella told our reporter he and the board will reconsider the levy rate this spring.

At the same time, Renzella said the board must consider factors such as reduced state funding, the need for two high schools and a payroll that includes about 100 more people than called for under the state school aid formula.

Marshall County residents have a long tradition of generosity in supporting public schools. Just last December, voters renewed a special levy for the purpose.

But many of them feel local governments, including the board of education, have a responsibility to them. It is to operate as efficiently as possible and be good stewards of the public’s money – using as little of it as possible.

Approval of the special levy in December indicates many voters did not hold the board’s refusal to reduce the regular levy rate last year against school officials. But with an even bigger increase in tax bills on the horizon, voters may not be as understanding this time around. Board members, then, should agree to a substantial reduction in the levy rate.