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Pointe Coupee School Board looking to voters for deficit help

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NEW ROADS - In a unanimous vote Wednesday night, the Pointe Coupee Parish School Board approved placing a new property tax on the May ballot.

If approved the new 9.5 mil tax would generate $4,500,000 each year and would be in addition to the 16.5 mil tax the school system is already collecting that generates nearly $8,000,000 per year.

"I felt that 9.5 would be a fair millage," board member Frank Aguillard said. "A millage that probably would have an opportunity of passing where people would support that particular millage."

The additional tax would not only cover the school system's $1,500,000 deficit but also be earmarked for teacher pay raises and other operational costs.

Certified teachers would see a $6,000 pay increase, while support staff could see a boost anywhere from $2,200 to $3,000. The remaining funds would be split between transportation, maintenance, technology, and infrastructure. 

"We're trying to find the happy medium of what the taxpayers will support along with doing what we need to do," superintendent Kim Canezaro said. "We need to retain our teachers and so they need a raise and  we also need to tackle our deficit and then try to put resources back into our school."

If voters approve the proposal, a property valued at $100,000 would see a $22.50 increase from $41.25 to $63.75.

Some in favor of the tax questioned if the board was asking taxpayers for enough.

"Is it enough," one resident asked. "Is it just going to get us by? Or are we going to be ahead? If they vote it out, it makes your job easier to shut a school down. So go for it all."

Others called it Deja Vu, after years of mismanagement. Some are concerned the tax proposal does not address long term needs.

"Kick the can, kick the can, I'm tired of them kicking the can," an opponent of the tax measure said. "Pick the can up and do something with it. That's what needs to be done with the can. And it's time for something else to be done in this parish, education reform!"

With months of campaigning ahead, Canezaro says if voters give the new tax the go-ahead, the school system will be on solid footing with a chance to then change the culture to avoid facing similar problems in the future.

"People want a vision," Canezaro said. "So this is a patch to get us through and then we need a vision to build those new schools and move forward for our school system."

If the proposal fails May 9, Canezaro says cost-saving measures, like closing schools or shortening the school week, would be reconsidered. 

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