The Central School Board agreed unanimously Friday to ask voters on March 5 to renew 32.52 mills of property tax, almost 6 mills less than what the board could have sought and still been able to legally label it a renewal.
To appear on the March 5 ballot, the proposition must first get the blessings of the State Bond Commission, which meets next on Nov. 19.
Friday’s special Central School Board meeting, which started at noon and lasted about 30 minutes, was called so the school system could meet the Oct. 20 deadline to get this item on the Bond Commission’s Nov. 19 agenda.
On March 31, 2007, just before Central broke away from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, Central voters switched over 38.45 mills in property taxes.
Eighty-seven percent of Central voters that day agreed to the transfer.
In the eight years since, Central has enjoyed fast growth and consequently has been able to roll back its millage repeatedly to its current level of 32.52 mills.
“We’re renewing at a lower rate,” said board member Jim Gardner. “That’s what we need to emphasize.”
The 32.52-mill tax is set to expire in 2017, meaning if voters reject renewing it on March 5, 2016, the Central school system will have multiple opportunities to try again.
The millage equates to a total annual tax bill of $243.90 for a home assessed at $150,000, and $569.10 for a home assessed at $250,000. The millage is subject to Louisiana’s homestead exemption, so the first $75,000 in value on the home is not taxed.
It is expected to raise about $4.2 million a year, or about 10 percent of the school district’s budget.
Central property owners pay a total of 60.4 mills currently for their public schools. In addition to the 32.52 mills up for renewal, there are 4.23 mills allowed in the state constitution for public schools, as well as 23.65 mills that pay for school construction bonds.
Keith Holmes, a Central resident, urged the board to consider asking voters to keep the property tax at the 38.45-mill level it was in 2007. He also suggested that in addition to the proposed 32.52-mill rate renewal, the board seek a separate 6-mill tax that would fund higher teacher salaries, which in Central lag behind some other districts.
Board member Jim Easley, however, said having two items on the ballot — one a renewal, one a new tax — would “muddy the waters.”
“If we wind up and both of them fail, we got a real problem,” Easley said.
Superintendent Michael Faulk said he’s considering redirecting some of the 23.65 mills currently paying off construction bonds to go toward increasing teacher salaries next time that millage is up for renewal.
Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.