Citizens against tax increase

And the School Board has taken notice

August 13, 2008 at 9:14 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Rolling up the school district's state constitutional tax from 4.01 mills to 4.1 mills would give the schools $84,000, while only costing residents anywhere from 25 cents to $2.93 a year, according to Jim Melohn, the school systems comptroller.

But a handful of residents spoke out against the move, saying that right now every cent counts. And since the school district ended the year with a $21 million fund balance, they don't see why they should fork over their pocket change.

"I just was concerned about the roll forward versus the roll back when we have a situation where we compare ourselves here in St. Charles Parish to Ascension Parish, who in sales tax growth and property tax growth over the last five years has only gone up 19.48 percent. Ours has grown over 45 percent," Craig Daste said. "The local collections per pupil, relative to the state average, have grown by 245 percent and our sales tax revenue here over the last 10 years has steadily increased.

"Our sales taxes, per capita, are higher than most other parishes, if not all, and we have a $21 million fund surplus, give or take a few dollars. Why can't we use that?

Milton Allemand agreed.

"Certainly no one will disagree that the cost to operate the school district will increase, just as the cost to operate ones own household will also," he said. "But just as the citizens will have to set priorities to their budgeting, so will this board."

M. Allemand also said that the board spent too much money on the installation of turf at both Hahnville and Destrehan High Schools, and the refurbishing of both stadiums.

"Now, the board is considering a high-priced automatic bus washing system and a high-tech security system, which are just a few of the unwise spending ideas for these economic times," M. Allemand said.

Gail Allemand said that the school board already spends $13,856 per student.

"How much more do you need from the taxpayer?" she said. "I agree with my husband. I just don't think we are spending the money responsibly."

However, Melohn says that the actual amount the schools pay per pupil is way lower. He estimates that the total is around $10,000.

He also says that the school system is struggling to meet the ever-increasing cost of insurance and is also trying to pay their teachers competitive salaries.

The constitutional millage is granted by the state to all school systems. Originally, every school district in the state had 5 mills of constitutional tax. Subsequently, it has eroded over the years to 4.1 mills and could possibly go to 4.01 mills if the school board decides against rolling it up, Melohn said.

Once the constitutional millage is lowered, it can never increase.

Last year, the district's constitutional millage was 4.1, but was adjusted to 4.01 mills after the reassessment of the parish's homes.

"Looking at the 2007 amount in taxable assessed value for the entire parish, it was $923 million," Melohn said. "From there, the homes were reassessed to $944 million. That meant an increase of $21 million of taxable assessed value and caused the adjustment of the school constitutional from 4.1 mills to 4.01 mills."

To roll up the mills back to 4.1 would cost a person owning a $100,000 home 25 cents per year. For a $175,000 home the cost would be 90 cents a year, while for a $400,000 home it would be $2.93 a year. All that would add up to $84,000 in extra revenue for the school system.

Melohn says that if the school board decides to roll back the millage to 4.01, that wouldn't mean that homeowners would get to split that $84,000.

"If we decide to roll it back - if it remains at 4.01 percent - that change would affect all tax payers, not just the homeowners," he said. "So even though that $84,000 would all be coming from the homeowners, if it is given back, it doesn't go back to the homeowners. Only 10.4 percent would go back to the homeowners."

That's because industry and businesses make up 65.2 percent of the tax bracket, while public utilities make up the other 24.4 percent.

Four days after the public hearing, the board agreed to vote on a proposal to lower the district’s property tax millage. The Finance Committee recommended reducing two taxes by a total of 1.04 mills from last year.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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