Jeff School Board to consider calling another tax election

By Littice Bacon-Blood

Source: | The Times-Picayune

December 15, 2017

The Jefferson Parish School Board most likely will ask voters for a tax increase next spring to fund teacher pay raises and facility upgrades, but just how much of a hike has yet to be decided. At its meeting Tuesday (Dec. 12) the board approved an announcement of its plans to consider calling for an election at the Jan. 16 meeting.

The public notice is required by state law. The election could be held April 28. The deadline for proposals to be placed on that ballot is March 5.

Voters narrowly rejected a new 8.45-mill property tax proposition on Nov. 18 that would have generated $27 million a year to boost teacher pay.

Board members Cedric Floyd and in-coming board vice president Larry Dale have both sponsored resolutions for an election that are slated to be discussed at the January meeting.

Both resolutions would include across the board pay raises for teachers and staff. However, Dale also proposes including salary incentives for certified teachers willing to teach in shortage areas, such as math and special education. Higher pay also would be offered to educators willing to teach in the district’s low-performing schools.

Dale said he thinks there will be stronger support for the tax next spring because it will take into consideration the long-range plans for facilities.

Floyd’s resolution calls for the amount of the millage to be decided at the board’s February 7th meeting, presumably after consultants complete the district’s facilities master plan.

The study is expected to be completed before the board’s February meeting.

The 10-year tax  proposed in November drew opposition from the Bureau of Governmental Research, a nonprofit group, in part because it said the school district should have completed its facilities assessment before putting the salary tax on the ballot.

Jefferson, with more than 50,000 students, is the largest public school district in the state. The school system currently collects 22.91 mills, generating $82.3 million a year. The millage rate hasn’t increased since 2003, school officials say.

At $40,949, Jefferson’s starting salary for teachers is the lowest among eight districts in the metro area. The proposed tax would have moved the district to second place.

In other business, the School Board renewed charter licenses for two schools. The A-rated Kenner Discovery Health Sciences was approved for a 10-year contract, while the C-graded Young Audiences of Louisiana received a five-year contract.

The School Board is expected to take up in January a vote on the requested one-year extension of Celerity Woodmere, an F-rated charter school. The measure was pulled from Tuesday’s agenda, but Superintendent Isaac Joseph has recommended that the contract not be renewed for next year.

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