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Sunday, July 21, 2019

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Lafourche School Board to consider sales tax increase

Lafourche School Board to consider sales tax increase

The Lafourche Parish School Board agreed Wednesday night to consider asking voters for a one-cent sales tax for teacher salaries and to authorize the use of bonds for school facility upgrades.

The measure is a consideration at this point, according to Superintendent Jo Ann Mathews.

The board will decide whether the resolution moves forward at a 7 p.m. Feb. 1 meeting at its offices, 805 E. Seventh St., Thibodaux.

Voters would have to agree to a sales tax increase.

Lafourche officials have discussed the possibility of pay raises for more than a year after Terrebonne Parish voters passed a tax increase to boost public school workers' pay.

Many supporters and opponents showed up at Wednesday’s meeting to express their opinions on the proposed sales tax increase.

More supporters spoke before the board, discussing issues with flooding, electricity and a number of other infrastructure problems at area schools.

The average teacher salary in Terrebonne is about $50,000 a year, with starting pay at $41,909. In Lafourche, teachers earn an average $48,000 a year, and the starting pay is $40,000.

Opponents of the sales tax included local businessman Dr. Darby Chiasson and Lafourche Chamber of Commerce President Lin Kiger.

Speaking on behalf of both the Lafourche and Thibodaux Chambers of Commerce, Kiger said the organizations are deeply concerned with the current effort to raise sales taxes.

"Our region and particularly our parish has lost more jobs per capita than any other area in Louisiana. Over 11,000 residents have lost their jobs in Lafourche and Terrebonne and many of those still employed have seen their salaries, benefits and hours cut," he said.

"The reality of our situation is that our families, businesses, economy and region cannot absorb an additional 1 percent sales tax increase," he added.

Currently, Lafourche Parish sales tax stands at 4.65 percent at the lowest and 5.4 percent at the highest among several of its municipalities.

Increasing it by even 1 percent could mean the parish will have the highest sales tax in the region. Surrounding parishes such as Terrebonne and Assumption currently stand at 5.5 and 5 percent sales taxes respectively.