Jefferson Parish School Board Weighs Higher Property Tax To Raise Up To $200M

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Jefferson Parish School Board members are considering asking voters for a higher property tax to raise as much as $200 million and build as many as 10 schools.

         President Cedric Floyd says many schools are outdated and overcrowded and that aside from a few major projects in recent years, the public schools system has not taken on a comprehensive effort to replace schools since 1980, the Times-Picayune’s Jessica Williams reports.

         Talk of a higher tax surfaced Monday during the School Board's three-day retreat in Baton Rouge. Taxpayers would be charged an additional 3 mills over four years if the board and voters approve borrowing $200 million via a general obligation bond issue.

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         For the owner of a $250,000 home, the new tax would cost an extra $52.50. The owner of a $150,000 home would pay an extra $22.50.

         The board's vice president Ray St. Pierre says now might be the right time for the tax. In 2009-2010, board members tried and failed to pass such a tax, even after St. Pierre and Superintendent Diane Roussel pleaded for support to replace outdated buildings.

         "It's just something that we have to do," St. Pierre said. "There's no other way that you can rebuild the school system."

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         Bond attorney Grant Schlueter said general obligation bonds are more secure than the sales tax bonds that the school system has used to fund other construction.

         "You (would) have a small millage that is financing capital improvements, and you are not relying just on your finite sales tax revenues, which are volatile," Schlueter said.

         The board plans in July to decide how to spend a separate $50 million in sales tax bonds.

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