The Jefferson Parish School Board will consider a proposal Tuesday to put a property tax on the November ballot to help fund teacher and employee pay raises.
The measure, which was put on the agenda by board member Cedric Floyd, doesn't specify a particular rate for the tax, but board President Melinda Doucet said there were discussions about a 4-mill tax at a board retreat last month.
The Jefferson school system now collects 22.91 mills in property taxes. Based on 2016 assessed values, that will generate about $82.3 million, according to Assessor Tom Capella. Of that, 9 mills, generating about $32 million, are dedicated to teachers' salaries and benefits.
An additional 4 mills would bring in about $14.3 million more, Capella said.
Floyd said he hadn't finalized his proposal, but that Jefferson Parish has to act to keep up with surrounding parishes in the metropolitan New Orleans area.
"The gap between what (the Jefferson system) pays and surrounding districts pay is getting larger," he said. "I'm trying to figure out what they pay their teachers so we can pay our teachers the same thing."
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Jefferson Parish pays its starting teachers $40,949, according to information provided by a school system spokeswoman. That ranks 26th statewide and is less than in Orleans, St. Tammany, St. James, Plaquemines, St. Charles, St. Bernard and St. John the Baptist parishes.
Floyd's proposal was introduced at the July meeting but wasn't discussed or debated. It is unclear whether a majority of board members support it.
Member Melinda Bourgeois said she will likely oppose the measure. "I am not against teacher raises," she said. "I just think we need to do it strategically."
She noted that the system is in the midst of developing a master plan for school facilities. That report is due later this year or early next year and is expected to recommend major upgrades and new facilities in several locations.
"The only way we can do that is with a millage," likely to be placed on the April ballot, Bourgeois said.
She said the school system should consider facilities and pay raises as one package as it tries to modernize and evolve to meet the changing educational climate.
"We want 21st century buildings, teaching, everything," she said. "We are going to need teachers for the specialty facilities" like technology-oriented STEM schools, she added.
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Putting millage proposals before voters on consecutive ballots would cause major problems, board member Larry Dale said. Asking for one millage "is almost crazy," he said, and proposing two would be even worse.
Like Bourgeois, he said that he doesn't oppose teacher pay raises but that they should wait until the facilities plan is complete.
According to Floyd, however, it is unclear whether a facilities millage proposal will ever make it to the voters, while teachers need a raise soon.
"I've been talking about this for months," he said. "We need to be competitive with the school districts around us."
Board member Mark Morgan, whose vote could prove crucial, would say only that he "looks forward to a good discussion."