Shreveport Attorney John Settle
by John Settle

Caddo voters will have an opportunity to express their approval or disapproval of Caddo public education on May 4th. No, its not (unfortunately) a re-call election for all twelve (12) school board members, but for all practical purposes this election could be just that.

Poison apple?
Poisoned apple?

Voters will be asked to renewal three (3) expiring Caddo Parish School Board (CPSB) ad valorem taxes. Proposition No. 1 is a 17.11 mills tax to provided funds for operation, maintenance, and “additional support” for schools. Proposition No. 2, a levy of 6.86 mills, is to acquires sites for and the construction and improvements of school buildings. Proposition No. 3 is a 11.26 levy for the acquisition, replacement and maintenance of microcomputers, buses, air conditioners and “other equipment”.

money-ballot-boxAs expected, these propositions are the only items on the ballot, – – – and voter turnout would probably be very low, as in abysmal. That is the usual strategy for tax renewal elections, and often the only real advertisement is pitched to voters who are not real estate owners, or to those under the tax threshold, – – – for this election a assessed property value of $75,000.

The school board’s “No New Taxes for Caddo Public School,” webpage has a rosy sales pitch touting that the district has reduced it general obligation debt, that its millages have reduced over the last ten (10) years and that the district’s bond rating has increased in the last five (5) years. The website also has also has a doomsday list of “what’s at stake if this election fails” : safe_children

  • Safety and security will be affected
  • Student teacher ratio will increase
  • Services to schools & students will be reduced
  • Transportation will be affected
  • Maintenance of aging schools will suffer
  • Athletics will be affected along with field trips and extracurricular activities.

Much like the last fall’s Bossier Parish School Board’s bond election campaign, the Caddo tax brochure plays fast and loose with facts, especially regarding no increase in taxes. The renewal is to continue the same millages for an additional ten (10) years. The brochure fails to mention that Caddo real estate was re-evaluated (i.e. re-assessed) last year and that another re-evaluation will be in 2016, and then four (4) years after thereafter. Thus most Caddo homeowners will have an increase in the total amount of ad valorem taxes because of the increase in property values if these taxes are renewed.

Question Taxes The website also touts others “financial highlights” achieved by the CPSP, which are selective at best. No where does it address the drastic drop in the school board’s financial reserve, the number of under performing public schools, or the increasing annual expenses for a decreasing student population.

To its credit, the webpage does acknowledge that Caddo’s property tax millages are higher than other districts of similar size. The justification for this high millage is that it is “offset by a lower sales tax.” The webpage argues that ‘Caddo’s sales tax is only 1.5% compared to 2.5%-3.0% in other districts.” Seemingly this pitch may be misdirected at best.

property-taxes-upHow this tax renewal campaign plays out will be interesting to observe. One should not be surprised if a “No More Taxes” campaign emerges, – – – if for no other purpose than to send a message to the school board of citizen disdain for its poor performance. A defeat of these renewals would certainly send that message, and could prompt massive, much needed reorganization of the Caddo school system; maybe even some board members would resign as well.