Millage increase election considered in St. John

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, November 11, 2015

RESERVE — A tax hike in the form of an increase in the millage St. John the Baptist Parish property owners pay will be on the table when St. John School Board members meet next week.

School Board President Keith Jones told his fellow Board members a special meeting is set for 10 a.m. Nov. 17 to announce the possibility of an election on those millages.

Jones announced the meeting during the Board’s regularly scheduled gathering last week.

Felix Boughton, School District executive director of finance, foretold of the potential tax increase when addressing School Board members in May on the District’s financial standing.

“If our financial situation is the same in December as it is right now, we’re going to recommend that you call an election in January for May to increase the millages,” Boughton said.

St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools Superintendent Kevin George later softened that declaration when speaking with L’OBSERVATEUR, but said school officials noticed sales tax revenue was down.

“We’re hoping that stabilizes or picks up, but that is something we’ll have to track and monitor,” George said in May.

The School District’s fiscal year began July 1, and George previously stressed school leaders recommended to School Board members they not increase the millage for the current time frame.

Declining revenue may force District leaders to reconsider another year of a flat millage rate.

According to the St. John Parish Tax Assessor’s Office, the School Board received $17,579,701.36 from property taxes in 2014 based on a 39.31 millage.

George said the District regularly monitors revenues received from sales tax, property tax and state funds through the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP).

The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board reduced more than 30 positions within the School District at the beginning of the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The Board passed its budget in June, which eliminated 20 regular teacher positions, two pre-school teacher positions that moved under the Head Start umbrella, four uncertified special education teachers, two special education aids, one employee in the maintenance department and two bus drivers.

At the time, Boughton said the moves were made through attrition, adding no regular-termed school employees lost their jobs. However, some employees hired after the beginning of the 2014-15 school year did not return.

“There were no layoffs,” Boughton said.

“It was either people that retired or were late hires. When someone is hired after the school year starts, we only guarantee them a job for a year.”