Central School Board Votes Down

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The Central Community School Board met tonight to consider whether to “roll forward” the existing property tax rates dedicated to school funding or to use new, lower tax rates available as a result of the re-assessment of property values by the Parish. At stake was $300,000 of additional school system funding each year for the next four years, plus state matching funds of over $150,000 for each of those years. Our School Board voted 5-2 against “rolling forward” the historic tax rates, passing up on the additional $1.8 million in school funding over the next four years, $600,000 of which would have come from the state of Louisiana.

Now for an attempted explanation of this somewhat confusing issue. Every four years the Parish re-values all real estate and sends out new assessed values. Most people in Central got such a letter from the Assessor’s office in the past week. The assessed value of property in central rose from $81.8 million four years ago to $89.4 million today. The Central School System is supported in large part by a 43.45 mil property tax on the assessed value of real estate. When assessments are changed every four years the law mandates that the property tax rate be adjusted to offset the increase in assessed value. In our case, the old rate of 43.45 mils applied to the new assessed value would have increased total property tax revenue for school funding by $300,000 per year plus state matching funds of over $150,000 per year. The new tax rate calculated so that school tax revenue would remain unchanged would be 39.79 mils.The law also provides that the local school board be given the option to vote to keep the old tax rate in place, known as “rolling forward” the tax rate. A two-thirds vote of the school board is required to pass a “roll forward” of property tax rates. The motion to “roll forward” the existing tax rate was defeated 5-2. Voting against the existing higher property tax rate were Morris Anderson, Sharon Browning, Will Easley, Ruby Foil and Jim Gardner. Voting for the “roll forward” and the additional school funding were Marty Guilbeau and Russell Starns.

A public meeting was held prior to the School Board meeting where citizens were give an opportunity to speak in favor or against the issue, and many did. There were impassioned pleas to provide as much funding as needed to meet current needs for operating Central schools. There were equally vocal calls not to increase school funding through property taxes at this time. The one common theme coming from all speakers was that everyone recognized that we need more funding for our school system. Those in favor cited the need to do whatever it takes to provide the best education possible for the children of Central and to do it immediately. Those opposed cited concerns that increasing school system revenues through property taxes now might jeopardize future efforts to fund new school buildings or they maintained that such tax decisions need to be put to a public vote.

One citizen asked what the impact would be on each homeowner if the tax rates were “rolled forward”. The estimates are that the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $9.15 per year, a $150,000 home $27.45, a $200,000 home $45.75, a $250,000 home $64.00 and a $300,000 home $82.00 per year.

Once the public meeting was closed and the official School Board meeting began, Superintendent Faulk advised that enrollment is up over 600 students this year with a current total of 3,681 students in the system. He emphasized the need for the “roll forward” and the resulting funding increase so that the Central School System could meet its goal of maintaining a 20 to 1 student/teacher ratio over the next few years of anticipated growth. After much discussion and additional questions from the public in attendance, the vote was taken, failing 5 to 2.

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