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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

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Early voting starts Saturday for upcoming election

Early voting starts Saturday for upcoming election

Tensions rise as opponents debate the need for proposed school district tax

Early voting begins on Saturday and runs through April 22 for the much-anticipated April 29 election in which The Lafourche Parish School District (LPSD) has two separate propositions on the ballot.

One of the propositions is asking voters to allow the LPSD to sell bonds, in the amount of $80 million, without increasing property taxes. This will allow the school system to re-sell their current bonds so they can use the money for construction projects. There has been no increase on the property tax millage since 1979 and that is not changing with this proposition.

The second proposition on the ballot is a one-cent sales tax increase. Currently, two cents of Lafourche’s sales tax is being dedicated to education. The first cent designated was given in 1965 and another cent was then added in 1995.

The cost of living has increased considerably since then but the school system has not asked for an increase in the past 22 years, until now, due to the overwhelming amount of budget cuts being handed down by the state.

“The first priority that will be addressed with the sales tax increase is the $5.1 million deficit, which includes a $300,000 cut in funding for VAL and BCA charter schools, which serve roughly 1,000 students throughout the parish,” said Chris Kimball, Lafourche Parish School Board Director of Secondary Education. “The second priority is to increase employee salaries in order to retain and recruit staff and to compete with surrounding school districts who pay higher salaries.”

Officials with the LPSD have stated that if the propositions do not pass, cuts will be imminent.

“What’s scary is that if this tax doesn’t pass, a lot of programs are going to be cut. A lot of positions are going to be cut. This will result in a larger student / teacher ratio in classrooms and the loss of many support services including librarians, nurses and guidance counselors,” said Kimball. “As stated in the election proposition, this money will not go to the superintendent’s salary or for the school board members. It will go to teachers, paraprofessionals, and support staff, etc.”

Opponents of the tax increase have voiced concerns that now is not the time for an increase due to the current state of the economy; but those who support the propositions feel that regardless of the situation, one-cent for every dollar spent is a worthy investment when it comes to education.

“My child is special needs and has a paraprofessional in his classroom. If this tax doesn’t pass, schools will have to start letting those paras go. If you vote against this tax, my child and so many others who need these services will suffer,” said Lauren Dufrene, a local parent with children in the Lafourche school system.

Along with the parishwide School District propositions, some voters in the northern parts of the parish will decide on who will occupy the vacant 2nd Senatorial District seat vacated by Troy Brown.

Voters can vote early at either the Galliano Office: 16241 E. Main Street, Suite B-23 (the South Lafourche Library) or at the Thibodaux Office: 307 W. 4th Street.

Election day is April 29 and voters will vote at their regular polling places.