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Business group won’t support propsed school millage

By Rebecca Burk Ellis / L’Observateur / June 15, 1998

LAPLACE – After a brief question and answer period the St. John BusinessAssociation decided to support one sector of public service in the upcoming millage election and voted not to support another.

The business association will support the 17.8-mill renewal the St. JohnSheriff’s Office is requesting but will not support the 25-mill property tax request of the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board.Voters will make decisions about both in a special election July 18.

The main focus of the question and answer period was for the discussion of the school board’s request.

Business association members fired questions at school board member Clarence Triche, who informed them that the money is needed to purchase three new buses a year, give teachers a raise, begin an alternative school and update lagging technology in the classroom.

“Why are you guys being so greedy,” questioned Donnie Boudreaux, a business association member and former school board member.

“It is a terrific amount of money for individual taxpayers and businesses,” Triche responded. “But we’ve streamlined the organization as much aspossible. Our transportation is one of the most efficient in the state. Ourdrivers drive four routes a day, unlike other parishes who drive two a day.

We are running the wheels off of these buses.

“St. Charles’ teachers make $4,800 a year more than teachers in St. John,”Triche continued. “We don’t want to surpass them. We just want to catchup with them.”Another business member asked how Triche came up with the request for 25 mills. Triche responded, saying about 6 mills are needed for thealternative school, 3 mills to update computer equipment, 3.5 mills toreplace three buses a year and the 12 mills will be used to give teachers a raise.

One business association member stated that he read that test scores on the IOWA tests ranked in the 30 percentile range in St. John. He askedTriche how much money is spent on each student.

When Triche didn’t respond, another member said the correct figure was $4,983. He also added that Catholic schools spend about $3,000 on eachstudent.

“A private school would not touch a handicapped child,” Triche said, defensively. “Every child deserves an education.”But business association members are concerned with the tax base skyrocketing and the fact that other businesses will shy away from moving to St. John. “We are now discouraging business and industry tocome to St. John,” Judy Songy of Century 21 said.Barbara Jacob, president of the organization, said the amount of votes to not support the school board’s request was “overwhelming.”Triche said the organization’s stance on the issue was no surprise.

“I’m disappointed, but I expected it,” he said.

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