School board mulling millage increase

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 25, 1999

By MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / January 25, 1999

EDGARD – Less than a year after having a millage increase for the school system struck down by St. John Parish voters, the St. John Parish SchoolBoard introduced a new millage plan to bring revenue into the school system at its meeting at West St. John Elementary School Thursday night.The board introduced for discussional purposes only a resolution to call an election May 1 to levy a 25 mills property tax. The election would bebroken down into three sections. The first would be for a 10-year, 17.4mills property tax for giving additional support to public, primary, elementary and secondary schools by providing funds for raises in teacher salaries of at least $3,300 per year and a 6 percent increase in salaries of support staff.

Proposition No. 2 would be for a 10-year, 3.67 mills property tax foroperation and maintenance of the system’s alternative school. The thirdproposition would be for a 10-year, 3.93 mills property tax to upgrade andmaintain the technology program.

The 25-mill increase would generate approximately $3,550,000 for the school system, according to the system’s administration.

The voters of the parish struck down a similar plan in July, and some members of the school board see a similar fate for this one unless the amount of millages can be lowered.

District 5 board member Dowie Gendron said he called the assessors in surrounding parishes to find out what their average millages were. He saidSt. Charles Parish had an average of 110 mills, and St. James Parish anaverage of 101. Gendron noted that St. John Parish already has an averageof 126 mills, and that if these propositions pass it would be over 150.

Gendron wanted to see about the possibility of having the restriction removed from the 1 percent sales tax on food and drugs.

“Put a proposal on the ballot to remove that restriction and use that tax for what you are proposing,” Gendron said. “I think that would go overbetter than the 25 mills. If we would then still need a smaller millage, Iwould support it. But I will not support 25 mills on top of 126.”Executive Manager of Finance Nathan Stein noted that millages in separate parishes cannot be compared because a mill in one parish may be worth more than one in another. The mills in St. John Parish, for example, mighthave to be twice as much as the ones in St. Charles Parish to bring in thesame amount of money. He noted that Tangipahoa Parish is currentlyasking for a 29-mill increase, while West Baton Rouge Parish is asking for a sales tax hike of $4.5 million.District 7 board member Clarence Triche said business and industry asks him why they have to support everything. He proposes putting together atax package that would be better for the long run.

“We need to put a good package together and have it accepted by everyone instead of a small section of the population,” Triche said.

District 6 board member Charles Watkins was against putting off the tax any longer, however, saying it would only give the opposition more time to get stronger.

“If by next meeting we can’t find a better one than this one, we need to vote on this one,” Watkins said. “Our employees need raises.”East St. John High School principal Debra Schum was also for holding theelection in May so that it could be done before the system does the majority of its hiring. Schum suggested holding a public forum before thenext meeting so the public could voice their opinions and find out why it is important for the school system to do something now.

“Look at where St. James and St. Charles are, see what they are doing toattract teachers,” Schum said. “We have to be competitive. If we wait anylonger, we will be working at more of a deficit than we are now.”Triche, however, said the millage increase would not be a cure all, saying that the school system needs to look at the long run.

“If we get a good tax system in the long haul, the system will benefit,” Triche said. “If done right, we can fix it for the next 10-20 years insteadof a band-aid to fix it for next year.”Board president Richard DeLong was also in favor of having a forum to let the public know what is going on as well as a special meeting before the board takes an official vote on the item at its Feb. 4 meeting.Superintendent Cleveland Farlough said he would be happy to do whatever the board wants in regards to the meetings.

In other business, Stein announced that the missing videotape of a previous meeting had been found. It had inadvertently been sent to theparish council and has been returned to the school board. Stein also gave arecommendation that two copies of each meeting be made at the time the meeting takes place with one copy going to the cable television company and the other kept in a vault at the Central Office. The motion was passedunanimously.

The board also adopted a policy regarding the advertising on school campuses. District 10 board member Matt Ory asked who would haveultimate say so on a logo, pointing out one provision of the policy that the sponsors recognition and logo be for identification rather than commercial purposes. Farlough said a logo is OK unless it advocates using that product.

Return To News Stories