HAMMOND, La. - The future of classroom resources, teacher pay and school buildings are at stake on the Northshore this weekend.
In Tangipahoa Parish, voters in Hammond will decide on a new 15 mill property tax for magnet programs, while all voters will consider rededicating a 1-cent sales tax, currently for school maintenance and construction, to include use for school operations, which include teacher salaries and benefits.
In St. Tammany, ballots will include a bond renewal, three mills less than before, to pay for technology, security and building renovations. A new three mill property tax for salaries will also be considered which, combined with the renewal, equals no increase in cost. And voters will decide on rededicating a property tax, currently for maintenance, to be used for teacher pay.
Even though both districts are talking different dollars and cents, they're both headed to the polls for the same reason; a consistent lack of growth in funding from the state’s MFP fund.
"We're doing a lot more with a lot less, but we're at that point that without this rededication, we just can't cut anymore positions. I don't think parents want to see us do that," said Tangipahoa Parish Superintendent Mark Kolwe.
"Everything we do now is to make sure we get the best bang for the buck, whether it be different positions that have come available or different programs,” said St. Tammany Parish Schools Superintendent Trey Folse, “I think we have the money where it needs to go. This money will certainly be used to protect the classrooms."
Both efforts have received significant support in their communities. In St. Tammany, recent cuts in spending, ahead of asking voters for help, earn brownie points.
Lacey Toledano, president and CEO of St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce said, "Just like businesses right now are cutting their expenses and dealing with the economic climate, especially health care, the school board is also facing these issues."
In Tangipahoa Parish, many support the tax for magnet programs in Hammond, especially since citizens asked for the election, but some concerns linger for the rededication plan in regards to the district’s active desegregation order.
"There's a big mistrust element with the school system by a lot of people," said Greater Tangipahoa Parish NAACP President Patricia Morris.