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Tax would fund raises, other school programs

Rebecca Burk Ellis / L’Observateur / July 13, 1998

The fate of a raise for teachers in St. John the Baptist Parish lies in thehands of the voters.

Residents will decide next Saturday whether to vote for or against an additional 25 mills on property tax for the next 10 years. Homesteadexemption applies to those whose homes are assessed at less than $75,000.

The millage, if passed, will give teachers a $3,300 raise, buy three new buses a year, provide more funding for an alternative program for students who have failed more than two times or have discipline problems and upgrade technology in all of the schools.

The value of a mill is $142,000, so if the millage proposal passes it will create an additional $3.5 million for the school system each year.Of the 25 mills, 17.4 mills – $2.47 million – will go towards much-neededsalary raises for teachers, said Superintendent Cleveland Farlough.

“If the millage passes, it will not only give us the opportunity to keep good teachers, but it will allow us to recruit and train other good ones,” he said.

“Our neighbors are the richest in the state,” he said, referring to the high teacher salaries in St. Charles and St. James parishes, and “good peoplewill go where the pay is good. Some will stick with you no matter what,but generally they want personal benefits for the fruits of their labor.”The next largest amount of the millage – 3.67 mills or $520,825 – will bespent on funding an alternative school.

The school will provide a haven for students who have failed several times and are not with their peers anymore and those who have discipline problems. Farlough said it will also create a safer environment in regularschools for students who are able to function in a normal classroom setting.

In upgrading the technology program, 2.93 mills or $415,782 will be spentand one mill will be used to replace three new buses each year.

“If the public does not support the public schools, no matter where they send their children, who will educate the poor black and white children and special ed children?” Farlough questioned. “Do they not deserve thesame education?” Farlough admitted that the public school system has its share of problems, but the extra money would help the situation over a matter of time.

“Abandoning the public schools will not make the problems go away,” he said. “The answer is not to run from it, but to be a part of the solution.And it will take time,” he admitted, “because you are dealing with people and not things.”Farlough said he feels hopeful about the proposal.

“Generally I’m an optimistic person,” he said. “I’ve always felt that if yougive people accurate information that most people are reasonable.

“But they need to have the opportunity to think for themselves,” he continued. “People with their own private agendas tend to get out thereand muddy the waters and confuse people. They need to ignore the rhetoricbecause we can’t afford to take out our frustrations on the children.”

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