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School Board passes disputed sales tax settlement

RESERVE — St. John the Baptist Parish School Board members accepted a closed-door agreement last week, choosing that option instead of seeking $7 million from the State Bond Commission.

School Board members met in executive session for more than an hour Thursday discussing, in part, what was listed on the agenda as a “confidential settlement regarding sales tax litigation.”

Following the closed-door discussion, School Board members voted 8-3 to accept a settlement, which had been negotiated for months and dealt with a sales tax dispute with Marathon Petroleum.

Terms of the agreement were not made public, Superintendent Kevin George said, echoing the advice of the Board’s legal counsel.

The agreement was far from unanimous, as Board members Patrick Sanders, Gerald Keller and Russell Jack voted against the measure, none of whom spoke publicly about their vote during the meeting. Even the vote’s logging process caused contention as School Board President Keith Jones instructed the vote be taken in descending district order, starting with District 11’s Clarence Triche.

School Board member Rodney Nicholas objected to the process, but his attempt to seek a pre-vote clarification from legal counsel was not granted.

With the agreement accepted, the School Board chose not to act on an agenda item seeking a resolution to apply to the State Bond Commission for $7,000,000.

Following the meeting, George said he could not discuss the sales tax settlement, but added the issue should come to a close quickly with the School Board’s ruling.

In other business, George told School Board members the work of local officials and that of St. John the Baptist Parish’s state delegation in Baton Rouge appeared to be working in their efforts to see the state maintain its inventory tax protocol.

“There are a lot of bills on the floor to be heard regarding bringing up taxes and increasing revenue for the state,” George said. “I can tell you as of (Thursday), that none of those repeal the inventory tax. I will say this, the session still has a long way to go.

“I will ask every citizen and every elected official to write, to call, to text, whatever it is, our local delegation, because they stand with us 100 percent. We still need to keep up the pressure. Local parishes can not afford for the inventory tax to be repealed.”

According to the parish assessor’s office, the inventory tax funded the school district with $7 million in 2014.