Letters for 04-24-2014

‘Yes Yes’ votes needed for schools
In pitching the tax package proposed by the Union Parish School Board, some have said superintendent George Cannon is being over dramatic when he calls the May 3 vote the most important issue for Union Parish schools in the last 20 years. Count us among those who wonder if he might, in fact, be understating the importance of the property and sales tax proposal being put before voters. The package – a permanent one-cent sales tax and a 13.5 mill property tax levied for 20 years – have been proposed to make drastically needed improvements to the physical plants that serve nearly 3,000 students. Revenue from the taxes will also be used to implement new programs and enhance those offered at the six schools scheduled to be open next fall.
The phrase “scheduled to be open” is indicative of the issues facing the school system. The board voted earlier this school year to consolidate classes at Marion and Spearsville elementary schools with Farmerville Elementary and Farmerville Junior High. The primary purpose for bringing students to schools in Farmerville is simple: It is not cost effective to continue offering classes in those communities. According to Cannon, it costs $10,000 or more per student per year to offer classes at the two schools targeted. That cost is reduced to $5,500 per student per year by bringing students served at those campuses to the existing facilities.
In addition to bricks-and-mortar improvements to facilities, the package will provide revenue to stabilize the system’s bus fleet. The system pays nearly $1,000 a month in fees to have, on average, four buses a week towed back to the bus barn after they break down en route to delivering students to school or home.
Not only will the proposal provide revenue for the parish school system, students served by D’Arbonne Woods and Downsville charter schools will also reap dividends of the tax package.
Four years ago, the state saved hundreds of hourly jobs - and who knows how many related jobs secured by poultry farmers - by providing revenue for Foster Farms to acquire the plant Pilgrim’s Pride shuttered. If there is any hope of bringing new industry and jobs to the parish, a quality education system is essential.
We urge you to vote “Yes Yes” for the proposals on the May 3 ballot. For Union Parish to have any glimmer of future prosperity, passage of the package is essential.