by Eliott Stonecipher
"it's always possible to get worse..."

Along with the vast majority of human beings who ever tried to play golf, I’m lousy at it.  Early in the process of trying to learn how to play, I ran across Will Rogers admonition that, “An interesting thing about golf is that no matter how badly you play, it’s always possible to get worse.”  I never forgot that simple posit about the game, and played enough to prove its accuracy.

Here in Caddo Parish, we have a kind of a corollary to what Rogers said about golf:  when the subjects are taxes and (some members of) the Caddo Parish School Board, things can always get worse.

According to this morning’s Shreveport Times (article here), next Tuesday’s CPSB meeting could see both the $134,000,000 bond issue on which I have previously commented here, AND a four-tenths-percent sales tax.  Sounding like a broken record on the subject, I say again:  you can’t make this stuff up.

If this proposal makes it to the ballot, and it then passes a vote of the people, we will be at 1.9% sales tax for our failing school system – 9.0% total – and tied with the Zachary district in having the highest public school property tax in the state.  (Zachary’s schools are rated “A” by the state, and have led those rankings for all districts in Louisiana for seven consecutive years.  Caddo’s schools are rated “D,” with stunningly high property tax rates.)

A significant number of those with whom I’ve spoken since yesterday on this subject believe as I do that sneaking this proposal onto the Board’s agenda for Tuesday is illegal.  It is certainly a bushwhacking, and highly unseemly for anyone professing to be a steward of the public trust.  For many weeks, the bond issue proposal has been winding its way to Tuesday’s agenda without a single mention of the sales tax proposal, which now shows up four working days before the vote.  That would mean the Board can approve it after deliberately arranging things where the public can’t comment on it, ask questions about it, or outright oppose it before the Board. 

The additional money from the sales tax – $20-25,000,000 a year is an estimate – will go for what is, fundamentally, a vote-buying scheme:  put the election on a very low turnout election date this Spring, then “incentivize” our thousands of school system employees to vote for their self-interests, regardless of whether or not those match the interests of friends and neighbors who put up the money.

Dottie Bell Really Doesn't Get it!

Board member Dottie Bell, in concert with the union, is responsible for this proposal.  Unverified reports also identify Board member Charlotte Crawley as one of those pushing this tax-and-spend bacchanal.  (Ms. Crawley has previously expressed her support of such a proposal to and in the Shreveport Times, though this morning’s article mentions only Ms. Bell.)

As I’ve written previously, the Caddo system as we know it is irreparably broken, and many of us believe strongly that independent public school districts should replace it.  (It appears in this continuing work that at least three community school districts logically exist within Caddo Parish.  Such districts restore local area control of their schools, typically along with lower per-pupil expenditures and tax levels.)  Those at the existing CPSB believe that if employees can pass this proposal in their own interests, the resulting cash windfall will fund new schools and other such “inducements” which can defeat the community school movement.

Finally, the population loss for Shreveport since 1980 – 6,500 people – and the gain of only 1.4% for Caddo Parish during that period, are directly linked to our high taxes.  If this proposal makes it through, Shreveport and Caddo will jump even further ahead of all other areas of Louisiana.  Given that we already have an 8.6% sales tax and just under 190-mills in property taxes, that will firmly set Shreveport and Caddo as a high tax capital among (at least) southern states.

Relatively low taxes are a proven magnet for population in-migration and growth throughout the nation, and high taxes are the opposite.  The lesson and confirmation here is that some of our elected officials just don’t give a damn about those facts.

Tuesday, we will find out which CPSB members are and are not included among that group.

Elliott Stonecipher

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.

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