School tax proposals before Tangipahoa voters

The Tangipahoa Parish School Board is seeking voter approval of a property tax to maintain and expand Hammond-area magnet programs and to rededicate sales tax proceeds to funnel more money into classrooms.

Early voting begins Saturday for the proposals on the May 4 ballot.

The current 1-cent sales tax, which generates an estimated $17 million per year, was extended to 2043 to back the bonding of anticipated construction projects, such as three new elementary schools required under the district's current desegregation plan, bond attorney David Henderson said.

School system officials want to funnel more of those sales tax proceeds into classrooms by rededicating the tax to support not only capital projects but also general maintenance and operations costs, including salaries and benefits for school system employees.

Superintendent Mark Kolwe said the rededication is essential to help the district bridge the gap of a projected $9.3 million deficit for the 2013-14 school year.

The School Board is seeking to modify the current desegregation plan to avoid having to build the three new schools, but the proposed changes have not yet been presented to U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle, who oversees the case.

In Hammond, a proposition for a five-year, 15-mill property tax in Consolidated School District No. 1, if approved, would generate an estimated $3.42 million per year to fund magnet programs for kindergarten through 12th-grade classes.

Hammond voters previously passed a 9-mill tax supporting magnet programs, but that millage expired after the 2012 tax year, Henderson said.

The increased millage would maintain the existing magnet programs and extend them to additional grade levels, he said.

A homeowner with a $150,000 property value and homestead exemption would pay $112.50 annually for the tax.