School tax prop loses by 116 votes

Deidre Cruse

With only 19 percent of voters participating, the Iberville Parish School Board's 6.22-mill maintenance tax renewal was defeated by a 116-vote margin in Saturday's election.

The tax, which produces some $2.4 million a year, has been on the books continuously for 74 years. Its renewal was the only issue on the ballot Saturday.

An anti-tax disposition among some voters, organized opposition from St. John School supporters who reportedly ran an anti-tax phone bank Saturday and a heavy vote against the proposition from North End voters whose high school was closed last year contributed to the outcome – 1,954 votes for the proposition and 2,070 against.

“I'm not pointing fingers at anybody,” Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr. said Monday. “I'm worried about the school organization...primarily the children.” He said he was disappointed at the loss.

Dr. Cancienne said he is working on Phase I of cuts the School Board will have to make to balance next year's budget. He plans to present a plan for cutting $5 million to make up for increased retirement contributions and diminishing state revenues to the board at Monday night's meeting.

Now, he said, he will have to start working on a Phase II to cut the $2.4 million the maintenance tax produced, but is also looking into whether the School Board can present the tax to voters at a fall election and get the tax on the tax rolls for collection again next year.

Tax Assessor John Randall “Randy” Sexton said the tax will expire at the end of this year. If voters approved it at a fall election, it could be collected for another 10 years without interruption.

Early voters overwhelmingly supported the tax, with 718 for to 235 against, a 483-vote difference. But, those who turned out on election day voted against the tax by a 597-vote margin, with 1,238 for and 1,835 against.

In six North Iberville precincts, 541 voters opposed the tax, compared to 80 who voted for it. Eastsiders were the most supportive of the proposition, though very few turned out to the polls. In Precinct 10 at the St. Gabriel Library, for example, only 170 of the 2,169 registered voters went to the polls.

In all, the tax failed in 24 of the parish's 44 voting precincts, passed in 18 and tied in two others.

Iberville Clerk of Court J. G. “Bubbie” Dupont said election day went smoothly. A delay in getting the vote  totals from Precinct 8 at the Point Pleasant Recreation Building was the only glitch, he said.