Jefferson Parish schools are asking taxpayers to vote "yes" on Saturday to a new 8.5 mil property tax.

The money would be used to give teachers and school employees their first across the board pay raise in 10 years.

"We need to be competitive," Jefferson Federation of Teachers President Cathy Johnson said. "In order to keep the best for our children here in Jefferson, we need to be competitive in our salaries."

According to the JFT, at nearly $41,000 a year, Jefferson Parish ranks 8th in starting teacher salaries in the area.

That's behind Plaquemines, St. Charles, East Baton Rouge, St. Tammany, Ascension, St. John and Orleans Parishes.

"We felt that it is time to pay the teachers and the school employees of Jefferson Parish what they're worth," Johnson said. "We are losing over 500 teachers (out of 3,500 teachers) a year due to many going to other districts and parishes for money."

The independent Bureau of Governmental Research recognizes that attracting and retaining high-quality public school employees is important to Jefferson Parish.

But, BGR has taken a position against the proposed millage.

BGR maintains the school board rushed into this proposition without a comprehensive analysis to justify the raises.

"Here instead, you have a broad brush approach that categorically applies pay raises to large groups of employees and as a result, it doesn't take into account very important issues such as performance, job classification or length of service," BGR President and CEO Amy Glovinsky said.

Jefferson Parish Assessor Tom Capella sent a letter to homeowners in the parish, letting them know that the proposed new tax millage would raise about $30 million a year. That means a homeowner with property valued at $200,000 would pay an extra $105 a year.

Voters have mixed feelings about the proposal.

"I think any help the schools can get is just a wonderful thing because our children need it or my grandchildren anyway," voter Mary Ann Reese said.

"I think we need to cut spending in other places instead of just raising taxes, over and over and over," another voter who would only say his name is Sal, told us.

"Happy to pay it, the extra money for teachers, better qualified teachers to earn more money, attract more good teachers to the field," voter George Ciolino said.

If approved, the new tax would raise the school millage in Jefferson from its current 22.91 mills to 31.36 mils. That's an increase of 37 percent.