School pushes tax renewal

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 30, 2010

VIDALIA — Ferriday voters renewed a sales tax last Saturday, and now Concordia Parish School District officials are hoping parish voters will do the same.

The sales tax renewal, a 1 percent tax, is on the May 1 ballot, and was originally passed in 1992 and renewed in 2000.

The tax is equivalent to 1 cent for every dollar spent.

“This is a renewal sales tax vote, it is not a new tax, so we are asking the people to vote again for us to continue this tax,” Superintendent Loretta Blankenstein said.

The funds are used for a number of school district purposes, but it is currently used to pay 100 percent of the district’s utility costs, she said.

The tax is used to pay employee benefits such as health insurance and retirement costs and also assists in paying retiree benefits, Business Manager Tom O’Neal said.

Those uses are important because it helps the school district compete with districts in the surrounding area regarding salaries, Blankenstein said.

The tax also helps make funds available for capital outlay projects that improve facilities, O’Neal said.

“Those projects are not fully funded by these tax dollars, but because of having these additional dollars it allows us to do some of these projects,” he said.

Other uses of the tax — which last year produced a little more than $2 million — include but are not limited to the funding for four teacher’s aides and their benefits, the supplemental check the school board gives employees every year, all of the parish’s teacher and classroom allotments and library uses, Blankenstein said.

“We have done the things we said we were going to use it for,” she said.

While the school district does have money in the bank, O’Neal said some of those funds are designated funds, and other funds are there to ensure that — should the district need to get a bond rating — it will be able to demonstrate that it can reserve and manage money.

“We had to absorb more than $1 million in state cuts last year and we could have either reduced services and personnel or absorb them, and that is something we had to do, absorb them. It ought to be a rainy day fund.”

The tax is set to expire in December.