Central School Board seeks to continue property tax for construction

On Nov. 16, voters in Central will get a chance to decide whether to let the school district sell $13.1 million in construction bonds, with about $8.1 million dedicated to Central High School.

The Central School Board voted unanimously Monday to place this proposition on the ballot, which includes an estimated $5.8 million to build a new ninth-grade academy on the high school campus.

Voters who say yes will vote to maintain the property taxes devoted to school construction at 23.65 mills, with that rate declining over the next 20 years as the bonds are paid off.

“The taxes will not increase above what we’re paying right now,” Superintendent Michael Faulk said.

Those construction taxes, first approved in 2009, were scheduled to start to decline in 2014.

Faulk had backed away from a more ambitious plan to sell $16 million in bonds as well as a separate 6-mill property tax just for increasing school system employee salaries.

A few speakers suggested delaying a public referendum until the School Board can update its master facility plan, including looking seriously at building a new high school.

“You’re spending millions on facilities that are either 40 years old or abandoned and you’re going to have come back in a few years,” Jon Simmons said.

“How many of these questions will haunt you if you have to come back before the voters again?” Simmons added.

Faulk said that as long as the city of Central allows unrestricted residential growth in Central, it makes it very difficult to determine what schools to build in the future.

“We have a need, the need is now. We have a plan to address the need now. That’s what this is about,” Faulk said.

Board member Will Easley agreed.

“I don’t think we can sit and wait for all these answers to come in before we move ahead,” Easley said.

Part of the proposal involves spending $1.5 million to improve the former Central Middle school campus, down from $5 million in Faulk’s original proposal. That proposal also envisioned the city of Central leasing and renovating office space in the old school building, which was last in use in May 2012.

Now, Faulk is just suggesting demolishing six structures on the campus and improving the parking.

Other items discussed during the meeting included:

FAULK EVALUATION: The board gave Faulk a good annual evaluation, rating him either “satisfactory” or “excellent” in four different categories and nine subcategories. The four categories were “educational leadership,” “system management,” “board and community relations,” and “miscellaneous.”

“Mr. Faulk continues to lead this system as it experiences more and more success,” Board President James Gardner concluded. “We look forward to his continued leadership for a long time.”

Gardner did not release a composite score, totalling all of the different categories, something other school boards often do.

Faulk also achieved two performance objectives: maintaining a healthy budget reserve that amounts to at least $6.8 million, and earning a satisfactory evaluation. He will consequently receive a 2.5 percent pay raise, bringing his base salary from $115,000 to almost $118,000.

SALARY SUPPLEMENT: The board eliminated a $2,500 salary supplement for 10 teachers who are certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, but will continue to pay them a state-mandated $5,000 salary supplement. In eliminating this extra supplement, Central is belatedly following the lead of most other school districts in Louisiana, which have ceased paying extra supplements to National Board-certified teachers.

Faulk said board members preferred paying all employees a step increase in pay in 2013-14 rather than continuing to spend money on the extra supplement for National Board-certified teachers.