The Zachary Community School Board took a pass Tuesday on a recommendation on its Pledge of Allegiance policy, opting instead to study the issue.
The issue came up when the board voted on several policy changes recommended by Forethought Consulting, a Baton Rouge firm that specializes in helping school boards manage policies. Board members approved six of the recommendations — which include an update to the district’s protocol for preserving public records and minor changes to personnel policies — but tabled the seventh, dealing with the Pledge of Allegiance.
The school system currently requires students to stand and place their hand over their heart when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited, even if their beliefs conflict with doing so. The consulting firm recommended changing the policy to simply say that “students shall be encouraged to exhibit respectful behavior.”
The board decided to delay voting on the policy change because several members said they need more time to study the matter.
Superintendent Scott Devillier and board member Heidi Vessel both noted the firm’s recommendations are made to help school districts clarify language in their policies and prevent legal trouble.
Vessel, an attorney, said changing Zachary’s policy could help “avoid needless litigation, which can be quite costly and take away from our primary objective here, which is to educate.” She noted, however, that the Lafayette Parish School System recently voted down a proposed change to its policy requiring students to stand during the pledge.
Lafayette Parish public school students will still be required to stand for the Pledge of Al…
In an unrelated matter, the School Board unanimously voted to roll forward the rates of two property taxes that fund the city’s schools, a move expected to bring in an additional $220,000 per year.
The board voted to keep the current millage rates instead of rolling back to an adjusted rate that would bring in the same amount of money as last year. One tax is set at 5 mills and is automatically renewed; the other is set at 38.2 mills and must be renewed every 10 years by voters.
Together, the two taxes bring in $10.3 million of the district’s roughly $50 million budget, business manager John Musso said. Those funds go toward general operating expenses and are not dedicated to any specific purpose, he said.
The rate increase means the owner of a $300,000 home in Zachary will now pay $52 in property taxes to the school district, which is a $28 increase, Musso said.
The vote comes a week after the Zachary City Council voted to roll forward the city’s property tax rate from 3.17 mills to 5.64 mills, the first increase in at least a decade.
The Zachary school district is funded by property taxes separate from the one that goes to the city budget. The school district also receives funds from bond issues, which are usually repaid from property taxes.
The parish assessor adjusts millage rates every four years. Government entities can vote to adopt the maximum allowable rate set by the assessor or keep the rate at the previous level.