Short-term rentals, a source of controversy in Port Aransas, just may be a source of significant revenue that could positively impact the pocketbooks of staff at the Port Aransas Independent School District.
A new organization called the Marlin Legacy Foundation aims to “provide direct support to PAISD teachers and staff essential in the growth and development of the next generation,” according to documents provided by the foundation.
To that end, foundation members are tapping Port Aransas’ primary industry, tourism, through voluntary cooperation of rental management companies that will implement “voluntary nightly fees placed on short-term rentals,” according to the documents.
The program will allow the foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, to legally fund PAISD staff members who are classified by the Texas Education Agency as “non-essential” workers.
Foundation president Mike Dayon and secretary/treasurer Chad Shimaitis made their pitch to school trustees at a meeting Wednesday, April 13.
Two school trustees, Marnie Pate and Daniel Johnson, also are on the board of the foundation. Other foundation board members are Chuck Crawford, Felicia Foster and Clare Adams.
“When I heard about it, I teared up,” said Sharon McKinney, Port Aransas ISD superintendent.
“We checked with our attorneys, and it works,” she said, although she added, “We don’t have all the details.”
Dayon and Shimaitis told trustees that similar foundations have been established in other districts, such as Alamo Heights in San Antonio and at the Carroll ISD in South Lake in the Dallas Fort Worth area. They noted that they are working with an experienced law firm, Branscomb Law out of Corpus Christi, as well as the accounting firm Jennings, Hawley & Co P.C. in Corpus Christi to establish the foundation.
“It’s pretty amazing the amount of money (that can be raised). It will be huge,” Johnson said.
Rental management companies, eight of which already have committed to participate, have options as to how the fees can be collected, including an increase in the facilities use fee or nightly fees.
The voluntary aspect of the fee, Dayon said, is dictated by law. Rental management companies cannot be required to charge the fee.
Rental management companies that have committed include CCMS, Silver Sands, Life in Paradise, Palmilla Beach Resort, Sand Key Realty, Port A Escapes, Manipato Holdings and Old Town Road.
Among employee classifications considered “non-essential” teachers by the state are gifted and talented, foreign language, AP (advanced placement) and pre-AP teachers, technology, journalism, statistics, calculus, biology II, chemistry II, and band as well as librarians, counselors, nurses, all sports programs, janitors and bus drivers.
Dayon and Shimaitis pointed out what trustees know:
• the district sends about 75 percent of taxes collected to the state as part of the revenue recapture program known as “Robin Hood,” in which property-wealthy school districts return tax revenue to the state for distribution to property-poor school districts;
• the district is number six in the state for the largest percentage of recapture funds returned to the state – that amounts to about $20 million a year of PAISD tax dollars sent out of the district;
• a third of district employees do not live in Port Aransas, largely due to the high cost of living here, meaning a $200-a-month commute to work; and
• surrounding school districts that are not property wealthy can pay staff higher salaries because they are not participating in the Robin Hood program in terms of out-going revenue.
It was pointed out by Dayon, Shimaitis and McKinney that funds raised by the foundation and those raised by the Port Aransas Education Foundation “do not cross paths.”
The PAEF creates revenue largely through an annual fundraiser. Those funds are awarded as grants for which faculty and staff apply for specific educational purposes.
McKinney suggested the district might direct the money to stipends rather than salaries to free up funds for salary increases for employees deemed essential. During budget discussion later in the meeting, Pate asked if the district would be able to attract good educators with good stipends.
“We’ll have to figure it out,” McKinney said, adding that the details of how the money from the foundation will be received and distributed, and with what frequency will require some homework. “It sounds confusing, but we’re going to figure it out. We’re excited,” she said. “The idea is to benefit every single employee with an increase in salary.”