Chamber not supporting St. John School Board sales tax, calls it ‘regressive’

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, November 16, 2016

LAPLACE — The River Region Chamber of Commerce is not supporting St. John School Board’s latest attempt to increase the sales tax in the parish.

The Chamber announced this week its Board of Directors voted in opposition of backing the school system’s proposed .25 cent tax increase for St. John Parish.

Henry Friloux, public policy chairman for the River Region Chamber of Commerce, said many business owners are concerned the raise may cause consumers to shop in other parishes rather than St. John.

“For example, home builders in the parish are having difficulty selling homes now and feel adding another $1,000 to new homes will make them even harder to sell,” Friloux said. “Also, the business community feels additional sales taxes are regressive in impacting low income individuals disproportionately.”

Ultimately, Friloux said, sales taxes are not a good option for financing public education.

St. John the Baptist Parish School Board members voted in August to bring the measure before voters next month.

The request is a near repeat of a measure denied by St. John voters in April by a 1,501 (52 percent) to 1,372 (48 percent) margin.

School Board members are seeking a .25-cent sales tax increase, designating funds generated from the additional sales tax split between employee salaries and benefits and the maintaining and repairing school buildings.

Tax revenue would also support school security, alternative programs, guidance work at the elementary schools and extra transportation.

The School Board is requesting a .25 percent sales tax increase that would generate approximately $2.4 million per year. The system generates approximately $22 million from a current 2.25 percent sales and use tax.

The issue now heads to residents, who will vote on the proposal Dec. 10.

The Chamber announced its opposition based on a survey of all St. John members and discussions with business owners within the parish community.

“The public policy committee concludes that most business leaders within the parish are not in favor of the tax, and therefore cannot be supported by the Chamber of Commerce,” a release from the Chamber stated.

Early voting is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Nov. 26 to Dec. 3. There will be no early voting Nov. 27. Early voting is held at 1801 W. Airline Highway in LaPlace and at 2393 Highway 18 in Edgard.