The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board voted 8-3 Thursday to “roll forward” a property tax millage for the 2012 tax year, a move that could raise as much as $3.7 million more for the system’s budget.
This decision required a two-thirds vote of the board.
Board members David Tatman, Vereta Lee, Kenyetta Nelson-Smith, Tarvald Smith, Evelyn Ware-Jackson, Craig Freeman, Barbara Freiberg and Randy Lamana voted in favor of rolling forward the property tax millage, while board members Jill Dyason, Jerry Arbour and Connie Bernard opposed the measure.
The issue is one many taxing authorities across the parish are dealing with this year.
Property in the state gets reassessed every four years, which means the value of some properties go up. Taxing authorities can “roll back” their tax rate levels to raise the same amount of money as the previous year, or “roll forward” and generate more money.
Superintendent Bernard Taylor Jr. said the extra money is needed for a school system that welcomed 43,000 students back to class last week but had to pass a budget that cut $28 million and 100 positions from the school system.
Although the school system has been able to keep the cuts from being felt in the classroom for the most part, that won’t last forever, he said.
“What we’re trying to do is avoid cuts that impact students in his or her classroom,” Taylor said.
The 43.45 mills approved Thursday evening will mean an increase of $3 a year for a home valued at $100,000 or $15 more a year for a house valued at $200,000, the school system’s chief budget officer, Catherine Fletcher, told the board.
“The type of increase we’re talking about is the price of a movie ticket,” Taylor said. “What I’m asking you to do is sacrifice a Starbucks or a lunch hour.”
Belinda Davis, president of One Community One School District, said she watched the School Board struggle with budget cuts, and if the board didn’t roll the tax forward, it would be like saying the crisis wasn’t real.
“And I know that’s not the truth,” Davis said.
She said the board’s job is to serve the best interest of the students, “not to serve the best interest of Woody Jenkins.”
Woody Jenkins, chairman of the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party, said rolling the millage forward amounts to a $15 million new tax over the next four years.
“All the talk of movie ticket is irrelevant,” Jenkins said. He said any increase will fall on the backs of property owners who will again have to pay more money in tough economic times.
People don’t have the money, he said.
Several people told the board they home school their children and didn’t use the public schools, or that the increases put another burden on property owners that they couldn’t afford.
However, other speakers said rolling the millage forward is the price everyone pays for the privileges we have.
Tania Nyman said she and her husband live a comfortable life because he’s been successful and they both believe it’s because of the availability of public education. It’s important for people who have been fortunate with a standard of living not available to everyone, it’s important to give back, she said.
Steven Cook, who is with a group called Stand for Children, said it’s his responsibility as the parent of two daughters in the public school system to make sure his daughters reach their full potential. He urged the board to vote in favor of rolling forward the tax millage and presented the board with 1,000 signatures of parents and community members in support of the roll forward vote.