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Wednesday, December 4, 2019



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Lafourche schools to bring half-cent sales tax before voters

Lafourche schools to bring half-cent sales tax before voters

Lafourche Parish School District will move forward with plans to ask voters to pass a half-cent sales tax this spring to pay for employee raises.

While the district found money to provide a step increase for 2019-20 after freezing salaries for three years, the average classroom teacher pay in Lafourche ranked 47th in the state for the 2018-19 school year at $47,011.

Lafourche schools Superintendent Jarod Martin said the half-cent sales tax would give all certified employees, such as teachers, a $3,000 raise and all non-certified employees, such as support personnel, a $1,500 raise. All employees would also be brought up to date on their salary schedule after the lengthy freeze.

The tax is expected to generate about $7.3 million annually.

As an example, Martin said, a certified employee who has been with the district for more than four years would receive a raise of $3,900 if the tax passes.

Last Wednesday night, the School Board unanimously authorized the superintendent to move forward with the steps required to put the proposition on the ballot in the May 9 election in 2020.

The board reviewed the timeline. If passed on May 9, the sales tax would become effective on July 1 and the first sales tax revenue would be received around Sept. 1.

School district officials have stated that improving teacher pay is one of their main priorities in their strategic plan to remain an A district. As it stands, the district has difficulty recruiting and retaining employees.

In the Oct. 16 Finance Committee meeting, South Lafourche High Principal Gaye Cheramie noted that the raise will just be enough to “compete and keep” more teachers and staff, not surpass nearby school districts.

“People do want to stay here, they just can’t afford to stay here anymore,” she said.

On Wednesday, board member Tyler Dufrene said, “This is going to barely solve the issue, but this will at least catch us up.”

In neighboring parishes such as Terrebonne, St. James and St. Charles, teacher salaries averaged $2,000 to $12,000 more in 2018-19, according to data from the Louisiana Department of Education.

Martin said the sales tax would sunset after five years and has the support of much of the local business community unlike the one-cent sales tax proposal that failed in 2016.

He said other agencies are looking to overhaul the tax system in the next five years in a way that could bring more sales tax revenue to the school district without the half-cent sales tax.

If that doesn’t occur, Martin said voters would have the chance to renew the half-cent sales tax in 2025 to maintain the teacher salaries.

Despite the support he’s already received from the business community, he said, “This is not going to be an easy thing to accomplish. ... The work is not done by any means.”

Board members on the Finance Committee stated on Oct. 16 that they would have to clearly explain that the money brought in by the tax would go directly to employee pay.

“School district employees definitely need this and deserve it,” board member Valerie Bourgeois said before the proposal passed.

 

-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Halle Parker can be reached at hparker@houmatoday.com or 857-2204. Follow her on Twitter, @_thehalparker.