Community leaders, pastors, and officials in St. Landry Parish gathered for breakfast and to explain the details of a multi-million dollar master plan that the school system wants voters to approve new taxes for.
The plan would bring major improvements to parish schools, officials say.
And there are some who are in full support of the master plan - while others have issues with it.
Officials say the last time a tax proposition was passed in St. Landry Parish was well over 30 years ago. It's split into three propositions, each of which has a plan attached.
The first one would add 9.9 mills to the tax bill of each taxable property, and is estimated to raise $6.5 million annually. That money would be used to raise employee salaries.
The second would add 1 mill to the tax bill of each taxable property, and is estimated to raise $662,000 annually. That money would be used to operate, maintain and improve parish schools' athletic facilities - to include the construction of new facilities.
And, the third would add 12.9 mills to the tax bill of each taxable property, and would allow the district to issue up to $150 million in bonds, using the income from the taxes to pay back the bond purchasers. The bond issue would be capped at $150 million, 30 years and 5.5 percent interest.
In Louisiana, a mill is equal to $1 of tax for every $1,000 of net assessed taxable value.
Board officials say if these propositions are approved during the special election on March 26, it could be transformative for the education system in the parish.
“It’s critical that we have state of the art 21st century schools that are safe, beautiful and inviting as well as for our adults and community members,” Superintendent Patrick Jenkins said.
If passed, Proposition 1 would give teachers a $3,000 pay raise, and staff a $2,000 raise, Jenkins says. Proposition 2 would help renovate track and field infrastructure at local schools, and Prop 3 would build four new elementary schools.
“All economic development is tied to the educational system. If you have an outdated educational system where people don’t have confidence in that, businesses won’t move here if you don’t have businesses moving here. The tax pace goes down,” NAACP St. Landry Parish Vice President Rod Sias said.
However, Opelousas resident and longtime school system critic Derrick Comeaux says the proposition could also allow officials to allocate money elsewhere.
“We’re already at a shortage of 75 plus teachers, custodians, councilors and we’re losing teachers,” said Comeaux.
Comeaux says he's worried the propositions will cost property owners too much and that cost will trickle down.
Comeaux, who also was an unsuccessful candidate for Opelousas alderman in 2018, says he thinks district schools need improvement, but thinks new schools are not necessary.
"And at this point in time, we’re losing teachers. When everyone is feeling an economic pinch. Gas prices are going up, groceries are up, businesses are recovering from Covid and the problem is you haven’t demonstrated the money you have you can handle it or account for it,” Comeaux says.
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