School Board Votes Unanimously To Call Tax Election

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The Central Community School Board met this evening to consider calling a Tax Election in May to fund building new schools and renovatimg and repairing existing schools.  After much deliberation and public input, the board voted unanimously on the following proposals.  (The actual detailed proposals can be seen at this link: PROPOSALS)

The first referendum on the May ballot will be for a 1/2 cent sales tax to fund the purchase of property and the building of a new Middle School at an approximate cost of $23.5 million.

The second referendum will be for a $12 million bond issue funded by a property tax of approximately 9.25 mils.  These monies will be used to do needed repairs and renovations on our existing schools.

The third referendum will be for a $20 million bond issue funded by a property tax of approximately 14 mils.  These monies will be used to construct an elementary school and allow the school system to discontinue the rental of the former Starkey Academy and reduce the need for T-Buildings system wide.

In all, the funds requested would total just under $56 million, far less than the $98 million requested a year ago.  Now the work begins to inform the public of the specifics of the proposals.  The school board has gone to great lengths to tie each of these proposals to the results that are promised.  As written, the funds from each referendum are required by law to be used for the stated purposes.

The Advocate is running an article on the meeting this morning as well.  The text of the article is as follow:


Central schools tax vote set


May 2 ballot to include 3 propositions



By JEREMY HARPER, Advocate staff writer, Published: Feb 27, 2009 – Page: 1B UPDATED: 12:05 a.m.

CENTRAL — Voters here will decide May 2 whether they should pay higher sales and property taxes to upgrade and expand the crowded local school system.  At a special meeting Thursday, the Central Community School Board voted 7-0 to call the election.  The unanimous approval came only after the board nearly abandoned the plan in favor of a smaller proposal some board members said would be easier to sell to voters, who less than a year ago rejected a larger tax plan to build new schools.


The plan approved Thursday includes three tax propositions: a half-cent sales tax to fund a new middle school, a property tax to pay for critical repairs at certain schools and a second property tax to build an elementary school or other facilities.


Voters will cast ballots on each tax individually. The propositions would generate a combined $55.5 million if all three are approved.  The 20-year half-cent sales tax would generate an estimated $1.29 million a year. The school system would combine the tax with a portion of its sales tax revenue to issue $23.5 million in bonds to build a new middle school and, if necessary, buy land on which to build it.


The second proposition would initially total 9.25 mills, which would fund a $12 million, 20-year bond issue. The money would go toward critical repairs at three schools: Central High, Bellingrath Hills Elementary and Tanglewood Elementary.  Central Intermediate, a former private school the school system is leasing, would get smaller repairs.


The third proposition would require 14.4 mills to fund a $20 million, 20-year-bond issue. It would pay for a new elementary school and, if possible, other improvements to local schools.

“Each of these proposals is specific as to what the funding must be spent on,” Superintendent Michael Faulk said. “The money has to be spent on that project.”  The School Board hammered out the deal in a last-minute strategic planning session Wednesday night with private consultants and its community steering committee.  However, after some audience members expressed concerns Thursday about the willingness of voters to approve three new taxes, board member Russell Starns proposed a smaller plan that included only a half-cent sales tax and a single 15-mill property tax.

“Even though we left there feeling warm and fuzzy about what we had kind of kicked around, I feel like I saw a majority of the people say they would prefer two proposals on the ballot, not three,” Starns said.  His plan would have funded a new middle school and elementary school, but fewer repairs to other schools.  The board defeated that plan 3-4. Voting against Starns’ proposal were Jim Gardner, Ruby Foil, Willard Easley and Sharon Browning. Voting for the proposal were Starns, Marty Guilbeau and David Walker.  After the measure was defeated, the vote on the original plan was unanimous


Central broke away from the parish school system in 2007 and formed its own system. Now it is trying to absorb an expected several thousand new students over the next several years. School officials say the system’s facilities can’t handle that growth, and say the middle school is beyond repair.  Voters in July defeated a $98 million education complex funded by sales and property tax increases.  After that defeat, the School Board revamped its steering committee and directed it to propose a new plan.  The 35-member committee, which studied the options for months, could never reach a consensus on how large the proposal should be or how to pay for it. Instead, it sent the board its most popular plan.

Steering committee member Dave Freneaux said he supported the slightly smaller plan that the School Board chose.“We recognize it’s a stretch in this economy to go as far as we’ve asked them to go, but we certainly need a new middle school and these priority renovations,” Freneaux said.