St. Charles Herald-Guide

Pass tax or shut down schools

By Shonna Riggs - January 17, 2007

St. Charles Parish voters will decide on Saturday, March 31, whether or not to renew two separate millages for the St. Charles Parish Public School System.

If voters reject the millages, in a worst-case scenario, schools could go bankrupt, or close, and 600 of 730 teachers now working in parish schools might have to be fired because there would be no money to pay them, Rochelle Cancienne, public relations director for St. Charles Parish Schools, told the Herald-Guide.

“The first proposition on the ballot will be the renewal of the 42.97 general fund mills which are used for the operation of the school system,” she continued.

“The second proposition on the ballot will be the renewal of the 4.9 construction fund mills which are used for the maintenance and upkeep of school buildings.

“It is important to understand that these millage renewals will not lead to higher taxes for the citizens of St. Charles Parish.”

Schools Superintendent said: "The true costs depend on what we believe is important for our students."

"If we truly value education and are committed to creating a quality educational system not only for present students but for future generations, we must be willing to create learning environments which best accomplish this community goal."

The general fund millage was originally approved 15 years ago at 42.97 mills. Voters most recently renewed the millage in 1997.

The school system expects the general fund millage to generate $32 million in its first year, or approximately 35.7% percent of the school system's operating budget. This money is used for items such as teacher salaries and benefits.

If the millage is renewed, property owners will continue to pay the same school millage rates they are paying now. Currently each mill levied costs $2.50 on a home valued at $100,000 and $10.00 per mill for a home valued at $175,000.

The St. Charles Parish School System has projected general fund revenues of approximately $92 million for 2006-07.

About 72 percent of that revenue is locally generated, and 28 percent comes from the state. Most of the state's share is distributed on a per pupil basis under the Minimum Foundation Program.

Proposition No. 2, the construction fund millage renewal, will generate approximately $3.8 million in revenue. These dollars are once again dedicated to the maintenance of buildings, replacement of roofs, building repairs and salaries of maintenance employees.

"The research is clear that well- maintained facilities have a positive impact on student learning," says Lafon.

"Even though the building square footage has increased by 21 percent in the past ten years, current millage rates along with supplements from the general fund have been used to maintain the system's excellent facilities."