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Board wants tax for teacher raises

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / April 6, 1998

RESERVE – Residents of St. John the Baptist Parish will be given theopportunity to vote this summer in a special tax election, in which funds, if collected, will pay for new school programs and give teachers a much- needed raise.

The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board decided 7-1 Thursday to havethe special election, which is an added 25-mill property tax.

The millage increase means that an extra $3,549,607 will be collected if the voters support it. $2,471,000 will go towards teacher and supportstaff raises, giving support staff a 6 percent raise and teachers an added $3,300 per year. $520,825 will go toward the establishment andmaintenance of an alternative school, and $415,782 will be spent to maintain and upgrade the technology program in the schools. The other$142,000 will be used to replace three school buses annually.

“One of the most important things we need is to attract teachers,” Debbie Schum, East St. John High School principal, said. “Everyone will benefit.We are talking about producing better citizens here.

“And we don’t want students out on the street. They need an education, butsometimes they need a special environment to get it,” she added, referring to the alternative school.

Clarence Triche presented the proposal. “We could not give personnel araise with the current funds we have to keep up with the promises we made in the last contract,” Triche said. “We could never find the moneyfor the alternative school that we really wanted.

“Our technical people are the best in the state, and they cannot do what they need to do with the money we have. We were the top in the southeastand now we are about number five in the state. We have a serious problemkeeping up.”Wendy Boldizar, president of the St. John Association of Educators, saidshe is pleased the board is proposing the millage increase and emphasized the fact the school board and union need to cooperate on the matter.

“We need to work together because this will raise the teachers’ salaries to the top 10,” she said.

Superintendent Cleveland Farlough stressed the importance of the added tax millage increase to not only recruit better teachers but keep the good ones the system already has.

“Obviously I support this,” Farlough said. “We have to get competentteachers. Caring teachers. Nurturing teachers. In order to get that kind ofteacher in the classroom, we have to pay them. And we have to pay to keepthe good teachers we have.”Before passing the proposal, some board members were concerned about the added millage being too high. Board member James Madere suggestedlowering the millage a bit and increasing sales tax.

Hugh Martin, bond attorney, said it’s too late to hold a special election for a sales tax increase. He added that if the voters support the millageincrease, St. John would still not be the highest collector in the state.Triche reiterated his stance on the issue, adding that neighboring parishes have much more money to spend.

“We are not asking for a whole bunch of monies to be wasted,” he said.

“St. Charles has 20 percent more to spend on students.”Leroy Mitchell seconded Triche’s motion to accept the proposal to hold the tax election July 18, saying “I support this 101 percent.”The vote was 7-1, with Dowie Gendron voting against it. Russ Wise wasabsent, and Aleitha Bardell and Felix “Pappy” LeBouef abstained.

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