School District: If propositions don’t pass, major cuts are inevitable
With recent cuts made by the state, school districts are scrambling to find alternative solutions to keep their school systems operating. Recently St. John and West Baton Rouge Parishes both passed propositions regarding increases in taxes to benefit their school districts. Natchitoches, Washington, Lafayette and Lafourche Parishes are all placing propositions on the ballot for the upcoming April 29th election focusing on their own districts.
The Lafourche Parish School District is facing huge cuts and a $5.1 million deficit, ergo needs to find other means for more than 14 percent of its funds that were once contributed by the State and Federal government.
In the past, the state contributed to more than 51 percent of the Lafourche Parish School Board’s budget, while only 38 percent was funded locally. In 2016, those numbers nearly reversed with the state contributing less than 38 percent while more than 52 percent of the budget was funded locally.
“We understand that times are tough but to continue to provide quality education to our youth and to sustain an A rated school system, we cannot keep going at the rate we are financially. We cannot keep losing teachers and watching our buildings go to ruins,” said Chris Kimball, Lafourche Parish School Board Director of Secondary Education.
The Lafourche Parish School Board (LPSB) has two separate propositions on the ballot for Lafourche Parish voters in the upcoming April 29 election.
One of the propositions is asking voters to allow the LPSB to sell bonds, in the amount of $80 million, without increasing property taxes. It is going to allow the school system to re-sell their current bonds so they can use the money for construction. There has been no increase on the property tax millage since 1979 and that is not changing with this proposition.
Construction projects include renovating dilapidated schools, tearing down the condemned former LCO Upper Elementary School building, enclosing schools that are currently open such as Lockport Lower and Golden Meadow Upper Elementary.
It will also help to improve schools by adding a cafeteria to South Larose Elementary, a Family and Consumer Sciences lab to LCO Middle School, and upgrading athletic facilities and electrical and technological infrastructures.
“By approving this proposition, it will afford the school system the opportunity to upgrade technology and security and help all of our schools throughout the parish, something that is much needed,” said Samantha Lagarde, LCO Middle School Principal.
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 Kimball. “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.”
Since the 2012/2013 school year, Lafourche Parish has lost 170 teachers to other parishes. Lafourche is the lowest paying parish among Terrebonne, Assumption, St. Charles, St. James and Jefferson.
“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.”
The school district supervisors and numerous educators are asking voters to approve both propositions so they can continue to provide quality education to our youth.
“We are shaping the minds of the future. We need to provide them with the best of the best. Approving these propositions will allow us to continue providing the best programs and education to your children and that’s something from which everyone will benefit,” said Lagarde.
The Geaux Vote online registration deadline is April 8. Early voting will take place from April 15 through April 22. 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.
Posted on Tue, April 4, 2017
by Gazette Staff Reports