Parish schools push for tax renewal

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 9, 1999

VIDALIA, La. – Teaching materials, school maintenance and salary supplements for teachers and support workers are just some things a sales tax for Concordia Parish schools helps fund. The 1-cent parishwide sales tax, which started in 1993, brings in about $1.4 million a year.

But for that tax to continue past the end of the year, more than half of those voting in the Oct. 23 primary election must vote to renew it.

Since the tax already exists, voting to renew it will not raise taxes.

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&uot;It would be devastating for us to lose this tax,&uot;&160;said Superintendent Lester &uot;Pete&uot;&160;Peterman. &uot;That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to come out to the polls and support it.&uot;

Sixty percent of the tax’s proceeds are used for operations of schools, teaching materials and supplies, with 40 percent going to supplement salaries and benefits.

Some of the tax’s uses include:

n $3,500 in salary supplements for certified personnel and $1,750 in supplements for support personnel like bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodial staff.

n Supplementing employee benefits. The district pays the entire cost of retirees’ health insurance and half of insurance costs for support personnel and state insurance increases for all certified personnel.

It also pays an extra $15 a month for all workers’ health insurance.

n Helping defray curriculum and instruction costs, such as extra teacher assistants, vocational aides, textbooks, computers, classroom supplies and furnishings and extra funding for bands and vocational programs.

n Improvements to and maintenance of school facilities.

At a time when Louisiana school districts are strapped for cash, such taxes are crucial, said Tom O’Neil, the district’s financial director.

&uot;If we didn’t get this tax renewed, it would probably mean reducing teacher’s salaries,&uot;&160;O’Neil said.

&uot;The only other source for funds for salaries would be the general fund.&uot;

Peterman added – without giving specific figures at this point – that employee benefits, classroom materials and the maintenance budget would probably be cut significantly, and the student-to-teacher ratio would rise if the tax is not renewed.

So Peterman is making renewal of the sales tax one of the top priorities for his first days in office.

He plans to meet soon with school officials to figure out how to best get the citizens behind the sales tax.