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Sunday, July 21, 2019

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Voters to decide on tax propositions Saturday

Voters to decide on tax propositions Saturday

Vacant District 2 Senate seat also on north Lafourche ballots

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

On Saturday, voters parishwide will decide on two separate Lafourche Parish School Board (LPSB) tax propositions while some voters in the northern parts of the parish will also decide on who will occupy the vacant 2nd Senatorial District seat.

One of the LPSB 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 and enclosing schools that are currently open such as Lockport Lower and Golden Meadow Upper Elementary.

The second LPSB 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.

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 this Saturday’s election focusing on their own districts.

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.

“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.”

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.”

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.

Also on ballots in the northern parts of the parish, voters will decide on who will occupy the Louisiana Senate District 2 seat vacated by Troy Brown, a Democrat who resigned rather than face likely expulsion after two domestic violence incidents. Thirteen contenders are vying for that seat.

District 2 is a large district that stretches from West Baton Rouge Parish to Lafourche Parish.

If none of the ten Democrats, one Republican and two candidates with no party affiliation can garner over 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held on May 27 between the top two candidates.