A property tax that funds staff and operational costs for Livingston Parish schools is up for a 10-year renewal on Oct. 14, and the school superintendent said he's leaving nothing to chance when it comes to making the public aware of how vital the tax renewal is to the school system.
The 7.18-mill property tax, which is projected to bring in about $3 million a year, pays for nonteaching staff such as secretaries, custodians, paraprofessionals and bus drivers at all of the schools, according to Livingston Parish School Superintendent Rick Wentzel.
He said the money is also used to pay for such things as cleaning supplies, furniture, copy machines and telephone bills.
"They're small parts of a school, but they're necessary," Wentzel told the Livingston Parish Rotary Club over lunch on Friday.
Meeting with organizations like Rotary is one way Wentzel is making an extra effort to get the word out about the tax renewal. He noted that recent parish taxes, including renewals, have failed on the ballot.
In March, Livingston Parish Recreation District 5 refused to renew its 15-mill tax with 63 percent of voters siding against it. One month later, voters in Albany and Springfield turned down taxes to support new elementary and high schools.
"The tax climate is not great," Wentzel said. "If you don't fill that void with the proper information, somebody is going to give them information and it might be wrong."
Around Livingston Parish — especially by the schools — the school board has placed large lawn signs reminding people that the 7.18-mill property tax they will see on the ballot next month is "NOT a new tax."
Similar flyers are being sent home with the students.
"We wanted people to know this is critical for us, it's essential for us, it's important for us, and I didn't want to leave anything to chance," he said of the signs.
The school district's yearly budget hovers around $200 million. Most of that — about $162 million — comes from the state and about $33 million comes from a local sales tax, he said. The property tax constitutes the third largest funding source and has been in existence since 1979, he said.
Wentzel's presentation was well-received among the dozen members who attended on Friday.
Rebecca Neale-Jacob, a member of the club and a local real estate agent, said she thinks locals are generally in support of renewing the tax.
"I haven't had anybody complain about it to me. I've been discussing it with people who are shopping for houses," she said. "It wouldn't be a big change, because we're already doing it."
The 7.18-mill tax costs $17.95 per year for a homeowner with a house valued at $100,000, $53.85 for a $150,000 house and $89.75 for a $200,000 house.
The district comprises 43 schools and approximately 26,000 kids.
The tax will be on the ballot Oct. 14. Early voting runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7.