BOSSIER SCHOOLS: A CLOSER LOOK AT ENROLLMENT

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…AND PLANS FOR A QUARTER-BILLION-DOLLARS (?) IN SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION

It is no longer a secret in Shreveport and the rest of Caddo Parish that our taxes – particularly property taxes levied on homeowners – are far, far higher than elsewhere in Louisiana.

As painful as this wound inflicted by Shreveport and Caddo public officials is in general, truckloads of salt are poured into it by our friends across the Red River:  do politicians there really have to charge such relatively lower taxes?!  After all, how can they possibly get by on such paltry confiscations as these:

… Bossier City municipal property taxes totaling 21.69-mills compared to a +105.3% higher 44.54-mills in Shreveport;

… a Bossier Parish public school property tax millage of 52.25-mills compared to a +49.6% higher 78.20-mills by the Caddo Parish School Board; and,

… a other-than-public-schools parish property tax in Bossier of 39.84-mills compared to a +61.8% higher 64.48-mills by Caddo officials.

These far higher taxes in Shreveport and Caddo Parish compared to Bossier City and Bossier Parish are logical contributors to both parish-to-parish out-migration from Caddo to Bossier, and to Bossier’s ability to gather in far more than its proportionate share of the (rare) newcomers to the area.

As so many of us in Shreveport / Caddo have discovered, our elected officials are not exactly in-step with the nationwide push for lower taxes and public debt.  As a perfect example, Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover – a tax-and-spend devotee if there ever was one – passed a $175,000,000 bond issue this past April, then, literally within days, brought forward a plan to incur $94,000,000 in new bonded debt.  This most recent money grab required a classically Glover move, an increase in electricity franchise taxes, specifically picked because it did not have to go before the citizenry for a vote.  (The City Council’s approval of Glover’s tax increase was more than enough to remove any doubt about whether or not a majority on our new Council shares the mayor’s devotion to more and more and more and more taxes.)

As Shreveport and Caddo taxpayers continue to hit their knees every December with fervent prayers to anti-tax gods wherever they may exist, our Bossier friends may soon join us at that alter, chased there by the Bossier Parish School Board’s currently evolving plans for a building spree.

The Shreveport Times reports – see here – that the Bossier School Board’s comprehensive study of “needs” for new schools and renovations of existing ones total more than a quarter-billion dollars.  How such capital outlay – and possible property tax increases – is needed looms as a key question among Bossier Parish government watchers.  It seems that Bossier Parish’s hot growth in total population – +19% since the 2000 U. S. Census – is being (deliberately?) used by parish officialdom to suggest to the public that school enrollment has a like growth rate.  That is not at all the case.  In fact, that population increase came with disproportionately few children attached to it.  Consider:

(1)  The February 2011 enrollment figure for all Bossier Parish schools – 20,302 – is only 1,617 school kids higher than the 11-year ago enrollment of 18,685 [February 2000, See LDE data here, “Total Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) Enrollment”].

(2)  Those 1,617 additional students are an 8.7% total increase in enrollment during that decade-plus period, which means an average increase of under eight-tenths-of-one-percent per year since 2000 – much lower than the near-2% annual growth of the parish’s total population.

(3)  The trend line for future school enrollment is down throughout Louisiana and much of the rest of the nation.  In Louisiana, during the 20 years from the 1990 to the 2010 census:

a.  the number of female residents in the child-bearing age group of 21-44 dropped -10.6%, and,

b.  the number of children under 5 years old dropped -6.1%, those 5-to-14 years old decreased by -12.5%, and high schoolers aged 15-to-17 dropped -0.6%.

These Louisiana subgroup declines are stunning in consideration of the national population growth in the 20-year period of +24.1%.

It may be that Bossier Parish School Board members will decide to structure their construction plan to maintain tax levels as they are, far below Shreveport and Caddo.  On the other hand, we may see the “Government Only Knows to Grow and Tax” rule at work, in which case Bossier School Board members will raise taxes on their residents, too, likely by an amount somewhere between where they and Caddo public schools now are.

As Bossier residents continue to watch this plan evolve, they might remind their school board members that a property tax millage rate “below Shreveport / Caddo” is no claim to taxing fame.  Rather than set their bar in comparison to the parish with the highest property tax millage in the state, and with Caddo schools graded “D” in systemwide performance, Bossier officials might instead consider, for example, Lafayette Parish.  With rapid population growth like Bossier Parish, Lafayette and Bossier schools each have a performance grade of “C.”  In Lafayette, the dedicated sales tax for public schools is 2.00% compared to Bossier’s 1.75%, and the Lafayette property tax millage is 32.28-mills compared to Bossier’s 52.25-mills.

Rather than Shreveport / Caddo’s high taxes be used as an excuse for Bossier to raise theirs, let’s hope Bossier’s much more fair tax levies someday serve to wake-up officialdom on the west side of the River.

For any reader who may not know, this and all other such analysis and commentary I forward to you has been done strictly in the public interest.  No compensation of any kind has been solicited, offered or accepted for this work.

Elliott Stonecipher

Evets Management Services, Inc.
6658 Youree Drive
Suite 180, #367
Shreveport, LA  71105
Phone:  318-424-1695

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