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St. John Parish voters have say on tax use, School Board

LAPLACE — When 2018 taxes become available in early 2019, St. John the Baptist Parish government will distribute funds from a health unit surplus to cover Mosquito Control and Coroner’s Office shortfalls.

Rain and a small list of ballot items contributed to a low 20.7 percent voter turnout in Saturday’s election, which ended with the re-election of School Board member Clarence Triche in District 11 and approval of a millage rededication parish-wide.

There were 2,401 votes in favor (62 percent) and 1,442 against (38 percent) the rededication, which allows $90,000 of the $434,000 accumulated annually on the 10-year health unit millage to be directed to other health services.

Namely, $50,000 of the $434,000 collected will service West Nile protection and other Mosquito Control services, while $40,000 will go toward an unanticipated increase of mental health screening costs in the Coroner’s Office budget.

Parish President Natalie Robottom said the results demonstrate a win for St. John the Baptist Parish residents.

“I would like to thank (the public) for continuing to trust in the information being provided,” Robottom said. “I don’t think we’ve lost an election regarding rededication or taxes, which is very unusual in this climate. We’re very appreciative of the support because, if you look at some of the amendments made this year, we had to move some money into those budgets because of shortfalls. We’re just trying to eliminate the shortfalls.”

The millage was initially passed in 2016 to maintain and operate the St. John Parish Public Health Unit located at 473 Central Avenue in Reserve.

Robottom said the rededication does not represent a new tax; residents will continue to contribute to the .96 millage through the year 2027, which the Assessor’s Office equated to $7.20 annually on a $150,000 home in 2016.

School Board

St. John Parish voters opted for consistency in School Board leadership, re-electing Triche with 315 votes (57 percent of the turnout). Challenger Lisa Tregre-Wilder collected 236 votes and 43 percent of voter turnout.

“It feels good,” Triche said. “I’m back to doing what I enjoy doing. I had dozens of people that came forward and wanted to help me get re-elected. My friends and students helped me get re-elected because they wanted me back and because people know all the things I’ve done for the kids.”

Funding and teacher certification are top priorities for Triche, who said the School District’s financial surplus has severely dwindled.

“My goal is to keep our doors open until we can find some additional sources of income,” Triche said. “We will be having some difficult times in the next year or so. Funding is one of our big problems because you can’t expect to get the best teachers if you can’t pay them. My whole endeavor on the Board is to bring the salaries of teachers to the point where we can get all certified teachers.”

Triche’s long term goal is to initiate a vo-tech high school to prepare students to go straight into the work force after graduation.

Saturday’s runoff in District 11 was needed after neither of the three declared candidates reached more than 50 percent in the Nov. 6 primary, as incumbent Triche took in 46 percent of the turnout (601 votes), compared to 38 percent for Tregre-Wilder (492 votes) and 16 percent for Shondrell Perrilloux (203 votes).

District 11 encompasses LaPlace neighborhoods from Old U.S. 51 to the St. Charles Parish line north of Airline Highway and from Walnut Street to Bayou Steel south of Airline Highway, excluding Woodland Quarters.