School Board calls special election for tax renewal

Deidre Cruse, Governmental Reporter

The Iberville Parish School Board will ask voters to renew a 6.22 mill property tax dedicated to school maintenance at a special election April 30.

The tax has been on the books continuously for 74 years, and currently produces some $2.4 million, about 56 percent of recurring revenue for the maintenance fund, Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr. told the board.

The School Board voted Monday night to call the special election to ask voters to renew the tax for another 10 years. Otherwise, it will go off the books at the end of 2011.

If voters fail to renew the tax, the School Board will have to make even deeper cuts in next year's budget than already anticipated, the superintendent said in a memo.

The 6.22 mill tax pays for a portion of the costs of operation and maintenance of the parish's public schools, including the salaries and benefits of maintenance and janitorial workers, utilities, insurance and other costs. A special maintenance tax of 4.84 mills makes up the rest of the recurring revenues in the maintenance fund.

The dedicated maintenance tax funds already have to be supplemented with some $2 million in general fund money – even before the projects from the construction the superintendent said.

“As you know, retirement contributions for IPSB increased by $1.7 million in 2010-2011 and will increase again by approximately $1.2 million for 2011-2012,” he wrote the board. “Also [the Minimum Foundation Program] will be cut for 2011-2012. In addition, through our bond program and new construction projects, we have added 209,000 squire feet in buildings throughout the district.”

Without the renewal, the general fund would have to pick up another $2.4 million.

“IPSB has made cuts to reduce recurring expenditures, and is planning for additional cuts of approximately $4 million in the current fiscal year,” Cancienne said. “If this tax is not renewed, IPSB would face additional cuts.”

Last month, Cancienne issued a reduction in staff notice.

The election is scheduled with the City of St. Gabriel's City Council run-off election, if it is required. Outside of St. Gabriel, the School Board will have to pick up cost of the special election, Iberville Clerk of Court J. G. “Bubbie” Dupont Jr. said.

Iberville Chief Operating Officer Edward A. “Lucky” Songy Jr. said that could run the School Board anywhere from $35,000 to $38,000.

In other action on Monday, the School Board agreed to advertise 25 master teacher positions and one district master teacher of middle and high schools to upgrade the teaching staff.

The board also agreed to hire a Washington D. C. lobbying firm, Sabiston Consultants, at $3,000 a month to help find federal grant money for local school programs. The firm's job will be to “educate federal policy-makers as to the merits of Iberville's appropriation requests,” select and coordinate meetings and opportunities for funding and report to the board.

The school system last year won a $10.1 million federal Teacher Improvement Program grant. Cancienne, who recommended hiring the lobbyist, said Iberville would not have won that grant if he and other local representatives had not been in Washington.