Covering Louisiana

Aug 6, 2014 11:46 AM by AP

Terrebonne sales tax increase to benefit teachers

HOUMA, La. (AP) - Terrebonne Parish School Board will ask voters to approve a half-cent sales tax increase to raise teachers' salaries.

The board voted Tuesday to put the tax issue on the Dec. 6 ballot.

Superintendent Philip Martin tells The Courier (http://bit.ly/1kmsOA50 ) the board will submit the action to the State Bond Commission.

Terrebonne residents pay a 9-cent sales tax, with a little more than 2 cents going toward the school district. Martin said the new half-cent tax will bring in about $12 million each year.

The average annual salary for the parish's public school teachers is about $46,000. Their last local raise came in 2007, and their last state raise was in 2008.

Last year, voters rejected a property tax that would have given raises to public school employees, but Martin said he will form committees to drum up public support for the sales tax. He said it is important to him that the proposition's language is simple and clear so voters can easily understand it.

Don Hingle, chairman for the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce, spoke on behalf of the chamber in favor of the proposition.

"Our teachers are doing a great job. We think our school district's doing a great job, and our children deserve the very best," he said. "The future of our community depends on the future of our children's education."

David Rabalais, of Houma, said the pay scale for Terrebonne teachers ranks low in the state - 47th of Louisiana's 66 school systems. He said the low pay could force teachers to leave the parish and make recruiting difficult.

"A person with a teaching degree can drive to Lafourche, teach and make more money than in Terrebonne Parish," he said. "Also, they can leave teaching all together, work in our local industry and make a lot more money. Education is the backbone of our community. ... We have a lot of great teachers here, and we need to not only thank them, but pay them."

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