The Lafayette Parish School Board will consider on Wednesday seeking legislative relief from the impact of sharing about $929,000 in local tax dollars dedicated for teacher salaries with charter schools.
The district is required by state law to pay the charter schools the $929,000 out of $27.5 million generated by a 2002 dedicated sales tax.
The problem is that in 2002 when the tax was approved, the district promised voters all of the money generated by the tax would be given to the district’s teachers to supplement their salaries. At the same time, state law allows the charter schools to get a share of the local sales tax proceeds.
As a result, the district is required to provide to its teachers the entire $27.5 million, essentially meaning it has to come up with an extra $929,000.
The board will consider a resolution Wednesday that calls on state Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, to draft legislation that would provide some type of financial relief for the School Board from having to share dedicated tax revenues with charter schools, yet also be on the hook to give all of the revenues to the dedicated use within the district.
The legislative session begins April 13.
While there are three dedicated local sales taxes that the three charter schools in Lafayette are entitled to a share of, the only tax the School Board is addressing is the 2002 sales tax.
The intent of any proposed legislation isn’t to withhold tax revenue from the charter schools, said Billy Guidry, the school system’s chief financial officer.
“It’s not about trying to impact charter schools,” Guidry said. “It is about removing the double-impact on our school district.”
The resolution asks Cortez to consider filing a bill that would allow voters to “undedicate” taxes to cover charter school allocations. The resolution asks the legislator to consider filing a bill specific to Lafayette Parish or that extends to all school systems.
“Voters would be given an opportunity to approve, for lack of a better term, redirection of some of those funds,” Guidry said.
In a phone interview last week, Guidry said the district’s staff is still in talks with its attorneys to determine the best solution to address the issue with legislation.
He said bringing it to voters is one option while another could be legislation that in effect would give school boards credit for having met the dedication for the amount that they share with charter schools.
“We’re still discussing the legalities behind either one of them,” he said.
Last year, Cortez drafted legislation that cleared the Senate but stalled and was never considered by the House Education Committee before the session ended. Last year’s legislation would have excluded the local revenues from the charter school allocations for parishes with populations of 220,000 to 225,000, which would apply to Lafayette Parish.
Cortez also drafted legislation last year for a study of charter school funding issues specific to dedicated taxes.
The results of that study by the Louisiana Department of Education were released last month and advised that “local school districts can achieve greater flexibility in their use of local revenues by approving or renewing local tax referenda having less restrictive language and fewer dedications for the use of funds.”
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.