School Board will ask for new sales tax

Vermilion Parish teachers were once the highest paid teachers in the region, but that lasted only about a year and since, other parishes have caught and passed Vermilion Parish in teacher’s pay.

Assistant Superintendent of Personnel, Charlotte Waguespack, informed the School Board last week salaries of both school teachers and support staff, rank at and near the bottom of the region, respectively.

“This makes recruiting efforts extremely difficult because the primary concern of college graduates is salary.”

The parish’s school system is currently second to last out of 69 school districts in the state in the area of local sales tax contribution to education.

“Surely our children deserve better,” said Superintendent Randy Schexnayder. “If we are to continue providing the same quality education to our children we must compete with other systems, at the very least, with school systems in our own region.”

At a special “State of Education Address” meeting this past week, Schexnayder had a solution to giving teachers and support workers more money.

He recommended a half cent sales tax dedicated to increase the salaries and benefits of all school board employees. The parish-wide tax will be on the ballot in May.

It would bring in around $3.5 million a year. It has been 30-plus years since the last sales tax was passe for the School Board.

He said the new tax would help do three things for the School Board.

• Reduce financial stress on the General fund.

• Bring parish teacher salaries closer to the SREB average than they have ever been,.

• Cause the State to re-direct MFP funding in the amount of $1.8 Million, previously lost to other districts, back to Vermilion Parish.

Chief Financial Officer, Phil Sellers provided an explanation of state funding of education, “the Minimum Foundation Plan, or MFP, (the state program for providing funds to individual school districts) is based on a complex three-tiered calculation.”

Level one is based and calculated primarily by high property assessments.

Sellers further explained that the state arrives at the amount of MFP on a per-pupil basis, by using a level two formula which is calculated primarily by the amount of local effort.

Level three accounts for un-equalized funding.

In short, Vermilion receives $1,862 less, per student, than districts like Allen Parish (with the same enrollment and demographic profile) thus placing Vermilion 67th out of 69 school districts, statewide.

Schexnayder pointed out the school system could actually be receiving more funding from the state in the form of MFP funds, if citizens of Vermilion Parish made a greater contribution towards their children’s education.

He said, “This is the only way to recoup money from the state which is currently being sent away from Vermilion Parish to other school districts.”

The Vermilion Parish School Board is operating the school system in a very efficient manner, and our employees have been extremely effective and successful in meeting the educational needs of our children as evidenced by the high test scores our students receive, Schexnayder said.

“ We’re actually achieving more than many parishes in our region and state with considerably less funding, he said.

“But in reality, with the reduction of state and federal funding, we are facing serious problems. As you saw in the staff presentations, we are currently tapping every available funding source, from Trust Funds to Oil and Gas Revenues; from Federal Funds to State Funds. In a nutshell, we’re mindful of exercising our responsibility, especially with taxpayer’s money.

“However, we are concerned about the economic situation if this trend continues. Unless we pursue other means of funding the school system, we will have no other alternative but to either cut programs or reduce personnel, which I personally feel is unacceptable for the future of our children.”

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