Our Views: Renew local school taxes

We support the renewal of two taxes on the April 6 ballot that would, if approved, continue some important funding for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.

Up for renewal are a 6.5 mill tax for general operations of the school system and a 7.19 mill tax dedicated to employee salaries and benefits. Together, the two taxes generate $43.3 million a year — about 8 percent of all school system revenue and 11 percent of the money that funds its general operations.

If approved, the taxes would be extended for another 10 years. These ballot items are renewals of existing taxes, not new taxes, so approving them would not raise tax bills for local residents. The taxes amount to a total annual tax bill of $34.23 for a home assessed at $100,000 that qualifies for homestead exemption. The taxes are now in effect in all parts for East Baton Rouge Parish except for Baker, Central and Zachary, which operate their own public school districts.

Even taxpayers who have no children in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system should have an interest in properly funding the local school district. Education is an important part of economic development and quality of life in our community. When public education lacks resources, we all suffer.

Local funding for public schools has become even more important in recent years as state budget problems limit state funding for public education.

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system is already facing budget cuts for the next three years, with $30 million in cuts projected for this fiscal year and $15 million projected for 2014-2015. Renewing the taxes on the April 6 ballot would keep a bad fiscal situation from getting much worse.

Early voting for the April 6 election starts today and ends March 30.

We urge voters to approve these renewals.