Voters support sheriff, schools

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 11, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / October 11, 2000

LAPLACE – Residents of St. John the Baptist Parish voted to raise their salestax from 8 percent to 8.5 percent to help the sheriff hire new deputies andraise the salaries of public school teachers.

The school board and the sheriff had asked the public to approve for each a 1/4-cent sales tax increase, and the people gave their OK during Saturday’s election.

The only real downside to the election was the low turnout. Of the 26,767registered voters in St. John Parish, only 21 percent showed up at the polls.According to the St. John Parish Clerk of Court’s office, with 36 of 36precincts reporting, the sales tax increase for the sheriff won easily 3,380- 2,359. That’s a 58.9 percent approval margin.The St. John Parish School Board’s request for a 1/4-cent sales tax increasepassed 3,052-2,489, a 55.08 percent approval margin.Sheriff Wayne L. Jones and Superintendent Chris Donaldson are pleased withthe results.

“I feel real good with the vote of confidence the people have shown toward the sheriff’s office,” said Jones.

“We’re very happy with the results,” said Donaldson. “This is a great moraleboost for the teachers.”Jones had asked for the increase for the sheriff’s office so he could hire more deputies and give a raise to both deputies and correctional officers.

Starting Feb. 1, all officers in the St. John Sheriff’s Office will get a raise of$100 a month, and correctional officers will get a raise so they will be making $1,500 a month, an increase from $1,350 a month currently paid.

Also, Jones will be able to absorb the salaries of 14 officers he hired under the Universal Hiring Grant. This federal program paid 75 percent of thesalaries, but the grant will run out shortly and the sheriff will have to take up the slack and pay 100 percent of the salaries. The increased sales tax willallow him to do that.

The extra revenue will also allow Jones to hire eight more officers. He plansto hire four in January, and four more the following year.

Asking the public for a sales tax increase had never been attempted before by any St. John sheriff. The last revenue increase was by Sheriff LloydJohnson back in 1982 when he asked for an increase in the property millage.

The 1/4-cent sales tax will bring in about $1.1 million a year.Jones said the new sales tax will improve his office’s budget for some time.

“We will be in sound fiscal shape for at least the next 10 years,” said Jones.

“We will make every dollar count.”And for the public school system, it’s a boost teachers really needed, Donaldson said.

The school board is facing a critical shortage of certified teachers. Onereason is that neighboring parishes and states are paying higher wages to certified teachers. With the new 1/4-cent tax the St. John Parish SchoolBoard will be able to compete with other school systems.

After getting a 3 percent raise from the new contract between the school board and the St. John Parish Association of Educators and the 1/4-centsales tax boost, a certified teacher in this parish will start out at $27,000 a year. This is not the highest in the state, but neither is it at the bottom ofthe pile, making St. John Parish a little more attractive to certified teacherslooking for a job, Donaldson said.

Hiring certified teachers is a critical need for the parish now that the entire state has to take the LEAP exams and accountability is the order of the day.

Donaldson said it has been shown that students do better on the LEAP tests when there are certified teachers in the classroom.

“The results of the election show that the public understands the situation,” said Donaldson.

Return To News Stories