Who’s in Charge Here?

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CENTRAL FIRST BLUEb largerConstitutional Law is a required class as I finish up my second year of Law School. As our class delved into the U.S. Constitution’s Separation of Powers, which defines the roles of the branches of government, I considered how these lofty concepts are at work in our own City of Central. In our 240-year-old national government the roles are fairly clear, but who’s in charge of what in our 11-year-old Central?
If you already know all about who’s in charge here, go start packing your snacks for Friday’s road trip to West Monroe to see the Wildcat football team take on the top team in the state. For the rest of us, read on and find out “Who’s in Charge Here?”
Political Truth #1 – The City of Central and the Central Community School Board are completely separate governmental entities. The School Board is not responsible for ditches and potholes, and the Mayor, Council, and Police Chief are not responsible for school facilities and performance scores.
Some folks might get confused by the almost identical boundaries of the city and the school system. If you live between the Amite and Comite Rivers, up north to Highway 64, you live in the City of Central AND in the Central Community School District. But the citizens across the Comite River, over to Foster Road, are ALSO in the school district but NOT in the city. Stated simply, the school district is slightly larger on the west side than the city.
So who’s in charge here? Well, seven School Board Members, elected by all of the voters in the school district, run the school system. And, everyone in the city limits elects the Mayor, Police Chief, and five Council Members to run the city. So, going back to the boundaries discussion, most of us vote for both city AND school system elected officials, but those between the Comite River and Foster Road vote ONLY for School Board Members because their “city” elected officials are the parish-wide Metro Council.
And who pays for all of this? The School System gets its money from a 2.5% sales taxes and several property taxes, while the City receives a 2% sales tax for its operations, but no property taxes. Although all the money comes from us taxpayers, there are two separate piles of money administered by two separate elected bodies. So, if you have a question about how your property taxes are being spent on your kids’ schools, ask your School Board Members. And if you have ideas on how you want your city sales tax dollars to be used for things like streets and drainage, talk to the Mayor or the Council.
Now that we’ve identified the players, watch upcoming papers for more about how it all works. Next up: Politcal Truth #2 – What Do These People Do? Knowing “Who’s in Charge” and “What They Do” is the first step to ensuring accountability and the best service from government. That’s the way I see it.