JEFFERSON, La. - Jefferson Parish Public Schools are operating on a tight budget. Last year, several schools were closed and hundreds of employees were laid off to close a $25 million gap.
Now, Jefferson Parish schools are facing more devastating cuts if voters don't approve a property tax renewal.
With 46,000 students, it's the largest school district in the state. But officials say the Jefferson Parish Public School District could be devastated if voters don't renew a 7 mill property tax.
“We cannot take a cut of that magnitude in order for us to be able to provide the services that families need,” said Superintendent James Meza.
Jefferson Parish homeowners already pay the tax, which generates more than $23 million annually for parish public schools. But the tax is set to expire next year unless voters choose to renew it.
“I think if we're already paying it and the money is going to something good, it's worth it,” said Metairie homeowner Keith Nuccio.
“I don't think the school board could afford to lose the money it has now. There are larger classrooms with fewer teachers,” said Metairie homeowner Shawn Feltey.
Last year, the school board voted to close seven schools, including Maggiore Elementary School in Metairie.
Now, Meza says more schools could be on the chopping block if voters don’t approve the tax renewal.
“Possible closures of schools, certainly major major layoffs,” said Meza.
The property tax accounts for about 5 percent of the school district's budget. It helps pay for textbooks and salaries.
Political analysts say the 10-year renewal has little opposition, but voters say oversight of how the money is spent is key.
“The main thing is to try and make sure it's being used for what they say it's being used for and not lining politicians pockets,” said Nuccio.
“I'm not opposed to investing in my community, in the children, in the schools, in public services, if it's going to those places, not that somebody's hand is in the pot,” said Kenner homeowner Robert Failla.
The tax has been in place since 1994, and was renewed in 2004.
As for the cost of the tax, if your home is worth $150,000, you would pay $52.50 a year with a homestead exemption.
If your home is worth $250,000, you would pay $122.50 a year with a homestead exemption.
The issue is up for a vote May 4.