School tax package wins approval
Union Parish School Board president Robert James didn’t mince his words.
“This was the most important election ever for the future of Union Parish.”
James’ statement came in response to voter approval of a tax package proposed by the board that will fund brick-and-mortar improvements to schools and provide additional funding for instruction and personnel costs.
Complete but unofficial returns from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office show a 13.5 mill property tax was approved 53.1 percent of the voters. The companion one-cent sales tax won approval from 53.7 percent of voters.
School superintendent George Cannon addressed a packed board meeting room at the system’s central office around 9:30 p.m. when the results from Baton Rouge were finalized. After congratulating the teachers, administrators and others “who worked tirelessly,” Cannon offered thanks to Tommy Futch, president of D’Arbonne Wood Charter School, who stumped with Cannon and parish school officials to win approval of the package.
“Tommy and I got together some time ago and discussed how this proposal was important for all children of the parish, regardless of where they attended school,” Cannon said. “Tommy helped us in areas where we hadn’t done well in the past, and we are very appreciative of his efforts.”
Both D’Arbonne Woods and Downsville Charter School will receive proceeds from the taxes.
The property tax will be levied for 20 years and will bring in a projected $42.5 million for building repairs, maintenance and equipment. The sales tax is projected to generate nearly $2.5 million annually that will be used for personnel-related costs.
Lyn Kenley, maintenance supervisor for the system, said work would begin Monday to purchase buses to replace an aging fleet. The School Board will soon select an architecture firm to begin planning and design of improvements for the system’s elementary, junior high and high schools. Work on the two charter schools will be their respective boards of directors.
Last year, voters shot down a proposal from the School Board to levy two property taxes. Both proposals – a $55 million bond proposal and a 10-year, 10-mill tax – received just over 43 percent of the vote.
One of the keys Cannon and other supporters felt was crucial was increased voter turnout. In 2013, less than 4,500 voters cast ballots for the two tax proposals. With a combination property and sales tax proposal, voter turnout increased by almost 20 percent, with nearly 5,500 voters. Slightly more than 35 percent of the 15,540 registered voters cast ballots in Saturday’s elections. That compares to 28.3 percent that voted in last month’s sheriff election.
Over 20 percent of the ballots cast in the election were by voters who took advantage of early voting, which ended last Saturday.
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