by Elliott Stonecipher
Did You get the message?

There will be no Caddo Parish School Board election this Spring for either the $134,000,000 bond issue, or the proposed sales tax increase for employee salaries and benefits.

At the beginning of this afternoon’s Caddo Parish School Board meeting, Superintendent Gerald Dawkins withdrew from Board consideration the $134,000,000 bond issue proposal – until a later time to be decided by the Board.

Much later in the meeting, at a few minutes before 6:00 PM (about 35 minutes ago), the attempt of Board member Dottie Bell to put the sales tax increase proposal on the ballot was blocked in a 7-5 vote against allowing the item to be added to today’s meeting agenda.  As I had suggested in previous of these reports, the fact that the proposal was added as late as it was triggered a “Point of Order” query from Board member Barry Rachal.  Given that, and given the Board’s own rules, a two-thirds vote of the 12 attending members – 8 votes – was required to go forward with debate of that proposal.

Owing to the time requirements for election ballot items to be ready for the April election, postponing the proposal until the next – February – Board meeting would necessarily lead to a vote by the people later this fall.  That would mean subjecting the vote to a high voter turnout, and proponents stand little chance of passage under those circumstances.  (Only in very low voter turnout election can proponents expect to “control” turnout in their favor, for example, using the system’s 6,000 employees as their main advantage.)

Importantly, while the teacher union led the preliminary argument (during the early “Visitors’ Comments” segment) for the sales tax, the other, non-union, professional group of and for educators – the Caddo Association of Educators – was not in support.  (The teacher union’s spokesperson lives – and presumably pays taxes – in DeSoto Parish – not Caddo – and while that is a subject for another day, it is also important to point out now.)

Do we have to do a "re-test?"

Scott Hughes, speaking for the Alliance for Education, also made his remarks during the “Visitors’ Comment” segment.  Those remarks were, as we knew to expect, in opposition to the tax / bond issue proposals, and stressed the fact that new bond money or sales taxes notwithstanding, a $25,000,000+ operating budget deficit stares the CPSB in the face, with that discussion beginning next month.  Put simply, as I explained in an earlier e-mail, a raise does little good to an employee who is pink-slipped (to use Scott’s excellent expression), as hundreds are expected to be.

It is, therefore, the appropriate time to thank everyone who had the interest, and invested their time, in expressing themselves about the Caddo School Board’s rejection today of both proposals.

We’ll sort through the “inside-baseball” details later, but for now, we can celebrate what happens when so many people get involved in a critical public issue, whether community leadership – the Alliance for Education, Community Foundation, Chamber of Commerce and Committee of 100 – or, even more importantly, significant numbers of too-often-ignored taxpayers and other residents.  Regardless of what we can’t say, we can say that plain old community involvement brought the CPSB to an awareness – dare I say understanding? – that people here cannot always be counted on to stay disengaged and silent.

Elliott Stonecipher

P. S.  If there were any other important developments during the meeting after blocking the sales tax debate, I will comment on those later.

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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Dottie Bell...???...

CPSB member Dottie Bell, under the direct influence (to be as polite as possible) of the teacher union, has put the sales tax increase proposal back on the Board agenda for next month. 

Regardless, it is the understanding of at least several CPSB members that even if the Board approves the proposal at that meeting, such action would be too late for placement on the April election ballot.

There has still been no release of any public information concerning the details of the pay raise plan to which the sales tax increase proposal is tied.

‘More later.