Presentations growing as October election nears

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 18, 2001


LULING – More than a dozen presentations concerning Oct. 20 ballot issues for the St. Charles Parish school district have been made so far, according to Superintendent Dr. Rodney Lafon. More, many more, are planned in the coming months. A 13-minute video, initially screened last week for industry representatives, hit the airwaves during Wednesday’s meeting of the St. Charles Parish School Board. At the same time, a flyer promoting the district’s call for voter approval of a 1 cent sales tax and a $28 million bond issue was released. The tri-fold flyer details the need for approval of the sales tax, budget cuts already made in programs and personnel, what would be reinstated and how the proposed sales tax increase compares to neighboring parishes. In addition, the flyer details myths and facts related to the sales tax proposal and also lists plans for the revenue should the bond issue be approved. Related to the sales tax, Lafon states sales tax revenue has dropped by $4 million in the past four years, mostly because major industrial expansion has slowed. In addition, state funding has scaled back, while health insurance and utilities costs are climbing, Lafon continued. Major budget cuts in regular instruction, building maintenance and transportation contributed to a total budget reduction of $8.2 million in the past four years. In addition, 18 professional positions have been eliminated at the central office in the last four years and 74 teaching positions have been lost, while class sizes have increased. Should the sales tax be approved, at least five positions will be reinstated, as well as spending in transportation, building maintenance and crisis management, among other programs. A 1 cent sales tax increase would place St. Charles Parish at 9 cents on the dollar, the upper limit to set sales taxes without legislative approval. In the metropolitan New Orleans area, this would place St. Charles Parish on a par with Tangipahoa and Orleans parishes and ahead of Jefferson, Lafourche and St. John parishes. The $28 million bond issue, a separate item on the Oct. 20 ballot, would finance completion of the new St. Rose Elementary, new classroom wings at Norco Elementary and Luling Elementary, construction of the new Raymond Smith Middle School and a third high school, among other projects.