Hammond voters on May 3 to consider tax for magnet schools

The Tangipahoa Parish School Board unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday asking Hammond-area residents to vote May 3 on a property tax to fund Hammond magnet programs.

The resolution calls for a vote on a 10-year, 15-mill property tax beginning in 2014 that is expected to bring in about $3.6 million annually.

The parish entered a federal desegregation order in 2010 that requires the school board to maintain several magnet programs throughout the parish, including in Hammond.

The board used to have a 9-mill property tax that funded Hammond magnet programs, but it expired after 2012.

The board asked voters in the Hammond area in May to consider a 5-year, 15-mill property tax that was projected to generate about $3.42 million per year for the magnet programs. Voters narrowly rejected the proposal.

The board announced Dec. 11 it would consider calling the election for the new tax.

Ever since the May defeat of the magnet tax, the magnet programs have been skating by on taxes that voters agreed to rededicate in that same election, Superintendent Mark Kolwe has said.

Voters agreed to shift a 1-cent sales tax from construction and maintenance to operational costs. The tax generates about $17 million per year.

Only voters in the parish’s Consolidated School District No. 1, which covers the Hammond area, would vote on the tax.

The board also unanimously voted Tuesday to change the boundaries of the district after board members raised issues about the old boundaries including some Ponchatoula-area precincts.

Board members have said it made no sense for Ponchatoula residents to vote on a Hammond-based tax.

The changes reduced the size of Consolidated School District No. 1 by excluding four partial precincts just south of Interstate 12, said Bret Schnadelbach, the school system’s chief financial officer.

Those precincts fall outside the Hammond attendance zone, Schnadelbach said.

The changes make Consolidated School District No. 1 more closely resemble the Hammond attendance zone, Schnadelbach said.

In other business Tuesday, the board received its audit of its 2013 finances.

The audit was clean and did not present any major discrepancies, said C. Donald Wheat, a certified public accountant who performed the audit.

The school system generated more than $191 million in revenues in 2013, up from more than $184 million in 2012, according to the audit.

The system spent about $189 million in 2013, up from about $186 million in 2012.