September 1 Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Our community will obviously support any effort to improve the education experience for all students in Marfa. Future enrollment is expected to remain steady; there’s no sign of spurious economic growth in the forecast. However, is a $57,000,000.00 bond the educated approach? First, let’s clarify: a bond is not a grant, it is an IOU with interest. In this case, 5.3% interest, which is high. Some citizens of Marfa, primarily solid homeowners and future renters by proxy, shall surely be yoked by said $57,000,000.00 (plus interest) over the next 30 years.

The current Marfa ISD tax rate on a house, appraised at $200,000, is approximately $2,000. Per the information provided in the paper, the same house would see a Marfa ISD tax increase of approximately $560, including homestead exemptions. This represents a 28% tax increase for Marfa ISD and an overall property tax increase of 14%.

Placing a burden of this cost on Marfa taxpayers will make the already unaffordable yet more unaffordable. New teachers will face higher rents in an already stifled rental market.

In context, for about $50 million one can purchase Tom Brady’s Beverly Hills palace, which can be purchased, dismantled, reassembled and turned into the greatest campus in West Texas. Or it’s about the same value as the Sheffield United soccer team, 51 private islands in Fiji, or a whole bunch of ranches in West Texas.

 Fifty-seven million dollars is over $200,000 per student at the current enrollment of 269. Aren’t there better, cheaper, more effective ways to improve Marfa ISD? For example, laptops for all students and free high-speed internet come to mind. Raises for faculty, increased security systems, repairs to the buildings are all achievable for a much lower price. What about seeking grants, which do not need to be paid back, to finance improvements?   

We feel that by saddling the town of Marfa with a debt of $57 million, thereby significantly increasing property taxes in a town already strapped for cash, is not fair to the taxpayers. Nor is it an economical or effective approach to solving Marfa ISD issues. We respectfully request that the citizens of Marfa vote “No” to this proposal.

Concerned Marfa citizens,

C. Macartney & L. Schooley

__________________

Editor:

We are responding to Mr. Francell’s letter who alleges that our letter to the editor dated Aug. 18, 2022, contains “factual errors.”

Some of our issues include the following:

  1. Why Francell failed to list and detail these “factual errors”? 
  2. There were repeated discussions during commissioners court of using hotel tax receipts to partially fund the community center. We have requested payment detail from the treasurer’s office to verify Mr. Francell’s assertion that none of these funds were used in the purchase of the center.
  3. During the previous 100 +years, when has there been a need for an evacuation center? What is the probability of a disaster that would encompass widely separated towns in the Big Bend justify the cost and necessity of this center?
  4. How likely would a charitable foundation provide grant money when a copy of the recent Jeff Davis County audit is submitted along with any prospective grant application? A recent audit noted numerous deficiencies with county finances.  
  5. We have yet to hear of a demonstrated need for these additional facilities and any study which demonstrates the benefits other than speculation by a few selected “incredibly experienced and knowledgeable people.” There are other existing facilities in the area which are currently under-utilized.
  6. During the last court meeting, it was approved to move polling to the new community center despite protest from some citizens who preferred that the location remain at the Catholic Church Parish Hall. County Attorney Todd was quoted in the Mountain Dispatch “that the preference for a public building is so strong that the law authorizes purchasing a building for use as a polling place.”  

We cite the Texas Election Code Sec. 43.032 (a) If a public building is unavailable for use as the polling place for a county election precinct, the commissioners court may purchase or construct a building in the precinct for that purpose. Texas Election Code Sec. 43.031 (c) The building selected for a polling place shall be a public building if practicable.

Clearly, there is nothing in the statutes that mandates the purchase or use of this community center as a polling place despite what is artfully implied by the Attorney Todd. Perhaps she can respond to this and cite some case law which documents her contradictory statements? 

  1. During the months of March through May 2022, there were four commissioner court meetings conducted at times different from the normal monthly meetings. These meetings had virtually no advance notice of their occurrence and had an agenda which included the proposed community center. Go figure?

We present the commissioners and residents of Jeff Davis County the following question: What would be the condition of Fort Davis schools if the superintendent and the board managed their financial resources in the same fashion as Jeff Davis County? The Texas Education Agency routinely evaluates all school districts within the state of Texas. Unfortunately, there is not an equivalent state agency for county governments which serves the same function.

In the future, there will be another letter which will address the following: everything you wanted to know about Jeff Davis County finances but were afraid to ask.

Robert “Mac” Sproul, Dirk McDonald