Having failed by fewer than 500 votes to pass a tax increase at last month's election, the Jefferson Parish School Board is set to debate two other measures asking residents for a tax hike to fund raises for public school teachers and other employees.
Two board members — Cedric Floyd and Larry Dale — are working on separate proposals to put before voters on the April 28 ballot. First, however, one of the two plans will have to gain the approval of five of the nine members of the board.
Along with raises for employees, the board is also likely to ask voters for money to fund building upgrades, something it already planned on doing in 2018.
The details remain to be worked out when the board convenes in January.
In an interview last week, Floyd said his new proposal may amount to a bigger hike than the 8.45 mills he had proposed and that voters rejected in November. He wants about the same amount of money for raises — something that's "worth fighting for," he said — plus extra money for facilities.
It's not clear how much the proposed facilities tax might be. The board has commissioned a consultant to prepare a report on the district's needs, which is due in January.
Dale's proposal also lacks details, so far, but he favors more targeted raises than the previous ballot measure.
The last proposal included raises for all district employees, including top administrators. It would have generated about $27 million a year and would have raised the property tax bill on a $200,000 home by about $105 a year.
Dale said he wants to focus the raises where they're needed most, which could mean restricting them to teachers and support employees at the schools. District officials have made the case that teacher salaries in Jefferson are falling behind those in surrounding parishes, making it harder to recruit and retain instructors.
Dale also wants the district's superintendent to draw up plans to attract applicants who are typically harder to find — math and science teachers, for instance, as well as those willing to help turn around low-performing schools.
"I know our teachers need raises," he said. "We need to be competitive with the surrounding districts."
There are likely to be tense discussions about all this among board members. Floyd already has criticized Dale's proposal as half-baked. It doesn't have "meat on the bone," he said.
Dale pointed out that voters have already rejected Floyd's proposal, and he suggested that asking for the same amount of money for pay raises plus an additional tax for facilities would be too much for voters to swallow at once.