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Business group hears about tax

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / May 20, 1998

LAPLACE – Business and industry members of St. John the Baptist Parishgot together Wednesday night to hear from the experts exactly what it would mean for the St. John School System if the 25-mill property taxproposal passes in a special election July 18.

Barbara Jacob, president of the St. John Business Association, saidbusiness people need to understand the proposed millage increase and called for a forum on the topic. “It’s not very well publicized,” she said.”No one really understands exactly what the increase is for.”So Clarence Triche, a St. John School Board member, and Assessor HenryHotard spoke on the millage and answered business and industry members’ pertinent questions.

Triche said the millage increase would be used to give teachers much- needed raises, purchase new school buses to replace the fleet of worn-out ones and begin a state-mandated alternative school.

Triche told members that the tax raise is a necessity if they wanted an improved school system that created more successful students for them to hire.

“We have been having a second-rate system,” Triche said.

He added that the Sheriff’s Office spent more money per prisoner than the school system is able to spend per student. The Sheriff’s Office spends$12,425 per prisoner, and the St. John School System spends $4,983 perstudent each year.

The amount of money spent on each student in St. John compared to theamount sister parishes can spend per student is much lower, Triche said.

St. James spends $924 more than St. John, and St. Charles spends $2,061more. The tax increase would allow those numbers to be smaller, Trichesaid.

“Right now we are second to last in the nation per child,” he said.

Triche said once St. John was among the top 10 paying parishes in thestate of teacher salaries, and now it is 24th. He also said that during thistime none of the teachers in St. John’s classrooms were uncertified,whereas now 78 are uncertified.

Low teacher salaries, according to Triche, is the reason the parish is struggling to find certified teachers to fill the classrooms.

“The money’s just not there,” he said. “That’s what happens when youcan’t pay for the best.

“We have a problem,” he added. “We can’t recruit. We are a trainingground.”Triche said the pay increase would boost St. John to the second highestpaid parish in teacher salaries in the state, next to St. Charles for a yearuntil St. James gives its teachers a raise.Homeowners of a $90,000 home have to pay $184 in ad valorem tax, whereas if the extra millage passes, Hotard said that would be raised to an extra $37 more.

He said one thing that would help is to get more industries in the parish.

He added that the reason St. James and especially St. Charles arefinancially where they are is because the amount of industry they have.

Hotard said that if you subtracted the industry taxes from St. Charles, itwould be assessed the same as St. John.The Business Association wanted more information on the millage proposal before taking a stand on it. They requested more speakers attheir next meeting in June and invited Triche back for more questions.

He encouraged them to think about it before making up their mind.

“Every time we turn around it’s always a figure that’s killing us,” he said.

“We are asking for 25 mills. That’s only a Band-Aid for what we need.We’re dying and the people here want a good product – students here that will graduate that they can hire.”

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