By Marsha Sills
August 24, 2012
“I have a lot of people I know who are on fixed incomes today, and the extra money you’ll ask for if you roll forward will put them in a real bind.” Dale brasseaux, Lafayette Parish resident
LAFAYETTE — The School Board took a nearly 40-minute break during its special meeting Wednesday to wait on more members to arrive before voting to roll its property tax millages forward to generate an additional $2.4 million more in property tax revenues.
The resolution required a two-thirds vote from the board’s membership but only five members of the nine-member board initially showed up for the special meeting scheduled, for 4:30 p.m.
Property values are estimated to increase with this year’s reassessment. When values increase, state law requires that millages be lowered so they generate the same amount of revenue for the taxing body as before the reassessment. However, the taxing agencies also have an option to “roll forward” their millages to the current rate to generate more revenue from the higher property assessments.
The board initially voted 4-1 to accept a resolution that lowered the current millage rate. Board member Kermit Bouillion cast the vote against the resolution and members Mark Allen Babineaux, Mark Cockerham, Shelton Cobb and Hunter Beasley voted in favor.
The second resolution to roll the millage forward at its current rate passed with votes from six members: Babineaux, Cockerham, Bouillion, Cobb, Beasley and Rae Trahan, who joined the meeting. Board member Tommy Angelle, who also joined the meeting late, voted against rolling the millage forward and member Tehmi Chassion abstained.
Board member Greg Awbrey was absent.
The board’s decision maintains the current total millage rate of 33.56 and will generate about $50 million, or an increase to the school system of about $2.4 million, said Billy Guidry, chief financial officer.
Lafayette Parish resident Dale Brasseaux asked the board not to roll the millage rate forward because of the impact it would place on some residents.
“I have a lot of people I know who are on fixed incomes today, and the extra money you’ll ask for if you roll forward will put them in a real bind,” Brasseaux said.
Guidry said the millage adjustment translates to a $7.50 per year increase for homeowners with a home assessed at $150,000.
While the annual increase for the School Board millage rate is minimal, Brasseaux said his concern is the cumulative impact as other taxing agencies roll millages rates forward.
Guidry told the board that there are provisions for those on limited income who are 65 or older to “freeze” their current assessment values.
Later, during its regular meeting, the School Board voted to meet in executive session during its to discussfour lawsuits recently filed against the board over personnel decisions.
When in open session, the board voted unanimously to accept recommendations made by its attorney, Jon Guice.
Guice said after the meeting he could not comment further on his recommendations to the board until he spoke with the attorneys’ representing the employees.
“The suits basically are related to how do you terminate someone” following Act 1 — a new state law that changed teacher tenure laws that took effect July 1, Guice said following the meeting.
One of the lawsuits, filed last week by former special education supervisor Mary Lynn Hebert, alleges the board violated the state’s open meetings law and state teacher tenure laws when it voted on June 20 not to renew her contract.
Another lawsuit was filed Monday by Katie Champagne, a Lafayette High teacher arrested in December for allegedly inappropriately touching female students.
In May, a grand jury declined to indict her on the six counts of alleged indecent behavior with a juvenile.
Two other suits involving other teachers were also filed Monday — one by teachers Stephani Rogers and Shanita Scott, and the other by teachers Judy Miller, Nadena Sonnier and Monique Taylor.
Copies of the suits filed on Monday were not immediately available because they were still being processed, according to a courthouse clerk.
Rogers, a special education teacher at Acadiana High, was listed on the personnel changes for the board’s meeting Wednesday for nonrenewal of contract effective May 25.
Scott, a Northside High teacher, was on the June 29 meeting’s personnel changes for nonrenewal of contract effective May 25.
In March, while a kindergarten teacher at Ossun, Miller received a two-day suspension without pay, according to personnel changes from the board’s March 7 meeting.
As a Milton Elementary-Middle School teacher Taylor, also received a two-day suspension without pay in March and was on leave without pay from March 19 until Aug. 1, according to minutes from the March 21 meeting.
Sonnier taught at Broussard Middle School, according to board minutes.