School Board tax renewal only issue on Saturday ballot

Deidre Cruse

With fewer than one percent of the parish's 21,000 registered voters casting early ballots, Iberville Clerk of Court J. G. “Bubbie” Dupont is predicting a turnout for Saturday's vote on a 6.22-mill  school maintenance tax renewal of only 25 to 30 percent.

The polls will be open parishwide from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the vote on the Iberville Parish School Board proposition, the only issue on the ballot.

As an emergency measure, Precinct 19 voters who usually vote at the Kleinpeter Agricultural Building at 23640 Peters Street in Plaquemine, will vote instead at the Iberville Council on Aging at 58105 Court Street, Plaquemine. The Kleinpeter building was damaged during a recent robbery.

A total of 844 voters cast early ballots, according to the Iberville Registrar of Voters' Office.

Although there have been some rumblings against the tax, which has been on the books continuously for 74 years, there has been no organized opposition against the School Board proposal. 

The maintenance tax produces some $2.4 million a year, only a portion of the $8 million appropriated this year for school utilities, insurance, repairs and maintenance, and custodial personnel salaries for more than a million square feet of school facilities.

The school board is in the process of expanding schools by another 209,000 square feet, and in the process of replacing heating and air conditioning systems at parish schools last built or overhauled 20 years ago.

If voters do not renew the tax, the School Board will have to make even deeper cuts than are already in the offing for the 2011-12 budget, according to Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr.

The school system had to make cuts this year to pay for $1.7 million in increased retirement system costs, and will have to find another $1.2 million to fund another round of retirement increases expected next year, including $200,000 in retirement contributions for custodial workers, school officials have said. Additionally, school officials expect cuts in the state's Minimum Foundation Program funding for local schools.

Currently, said Chief Financial Officer Jolain Babin, the School Board has budgeted $8.02 million for maintenance, including $2.55 million for salaries and benefits of custodial workers, $945,000 for purchased services, nearly $1.7 million for repairs and maintenance, $741,000 for insurance, $1.605 million for utilities, and $481,000 for supplies and equipment.

According to Iberville Tax Assessor Randy Sexton, the 6.22-mill maintenance tax costs homeowners covered by the Homestead Exemption nothing on homes valued at $75,000 or less; $15.55 a year on homes valued at $100,000; $46.65 a year on homes valued at $150,000, and $77.77 a year on homes valued at $200,000.