EBR voters renew school taxes in low turnout election

Amid anemic turnout, East Baton Rouge Parish residents on Saturday renewed by wide margins two property taxes that maintain the pay of schoolteachers and school employees.

In Central, newcomer Jason Ellis handily defeated incumbent Ralph Washington in a runoff to fill the fifth — and only remaining vacant — seat on the City Council. Ellis collected 2,066 votes to Washington’s 1,477, a 58 percent to 42 percent split.

Both are Republicans.

In the property tax renewal election for East Baton Rouge Parish schools, the turnout was barely 3 percent. That’s one of the lowest turnouts in recent history.

With all 277 precincts reporting, here’s how the votes went:

PROPOSITION 1 FOR 2.78 MILLS: Unofficial returns showed it was approved with 4,924 voters, or 70 percent, voting yes, and 2,078 voters, or 30 percent, voting no.

The tax funds teaching positions, generating about $8.9 million a year.

PROPOSITION 2 FOR 1.86 MILLS: Unofficial returns showed it was approved with 4,891 voters, or 70 percent, voting yes, and 2,071 voters, or 30 percent, voting no.

The tax is dedicated to employee salaries and benefits, generating about $6 million a year.

Keith Bromery, a spokesman for the school system, said “our heartfelt gratitude goes out to the voters.”

Taxpayers in Baker, Central and Zachary are not affected because they have independent public school districts and couldn’t vote on the propositions.

The taxes amount to a total annual tax bill of $11.60 for a home assessed at $100,000. They are subject to Louisiana’s homestead exemption.

They will remain in effect for 10 more years, through 2025.

East Baton Rouge Parish schools levy 43.45 mills in total property taxes. The district educates almost 42,000 children. It has about 6,000 employees, more than half of them teachers.

The estimated $14.9 million raised by the two taxes up for renewal represent almost 3 percent of all school system revenue and almost 4 percent of the money that funds its general operations.

In other area parishes, voters were asked to increase their school taxes and the results were mixed.

Voters said yes in Walker and Hammond, but no in West Feliciana Parish.

In Walker, a bond proposition passed with 54 percent of voters voting yes, while in Hammond the margin was closer for a new property tax, with less than 52 percent voting yes. In West Feliciana Parish, a proposed new property tax was defeated with almost 57 percent voting no.