by Elliott Stonecipher
They did it again!
That’s my take on the weather-threatened Tuesday evening gathering at Shreveport’s Broadmoor Presbyterian Church, sponsored by “BNA,” the Broadmoor Neighborhood Association.
Most else in town had been cancelled, but the event sponsors never blinked. Eighty-plus folks dodged the ice, ignoring threats of even worse for later that night, specifically to hear the opposition case on the Caddo Parish School Board’s bond proposal set for a May 2nd vote. The event was put together by BNA members Rob Broussard and Ken Krefft, with an assist from Linda Talbert and Lou Burnett, not to mention involved church members.
For those who do not know, such a response here is very rare these days. Regardless, as those involved in our community have long known and understood, even if the rest of Shreveport is asleep at the wheel at any given point in time on any given issue, our vehicle of community interest can always be found in that heart-of-Shreveport driveway in Broadmoor, purring engine and BNA driver ready to put it in gear.
I have not personally seen a more invested group of attendees for such a purpose, with the possible exception of South Louisiana audiences I addressed the year after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Shreveport certainly has not suffered in that way, and our hit traces to no act of God. Still, after thirty years of population out-migration and resulting economic stagnation, community involvement in local government is nowadays best described as a silent and studied disinterest.
Somehow, though, the Caddo Parish School Board’s subject attempt to borrow $108,000,000 to build more stuff – mainly a $24,500,000 new school in its highest-income area – is an exception. The BNA meeting presented this argument in opposition: handing these folks another hundred-million-plus of our hard-earned dollars is a kind of Aggie joke, no offense meant to Aggies. After all, the system is infamously bloated with brick-and-mortar, will right-size only if forced by taxpayers to do so, and features far too many administrators who work against the citizenry as if such is their life’s calling.
Note the recent and related bit of official action which highlights, yet again, the school board’s legendary arrogance and disregard for taxpayers. The CPSB gave Superintendent T. Lamar Goree, in his job less than a year, a $50,000 raise over the next two years, plus a signing bonus of $10,000. Once these increases are in his pocket, his salary will be $15,000 less than that of Louisiana State Superintendent John White. With Goree’s car and benefits added, there is likely no difference.
As I detailed Tuesday night, it is increasingly clear that the real deal in all of this is the taj mahal of schools planned for Southeast Shreveport. The #1 hawker of the deal is its former loud opponent, CPSB member and real estate agency owner, Barry Rachal. It took the Louisiana Legislative Auditor to call bullfeathers on this stinker back in 2002, and that was for an $8,000,000 version of the school.
The CPSB, costing us 76.00-mills of Shreveport’s Louisiana-highest 180.00-mill property tax, is our most insidious tax-and-spend machine. To the CPSB, there is literally no limit to its self-defeating fervor to tax property owners as necessary to run them out of here.
One of many stinging facts from my most recent research on the subject (SEE all tables here) is that the school board has raised its tax on property owners by 110.9% since 1983, more than double the 52.2% increase by the East Baton Rouge system, the one most directly comparable to ours. The school board could broaden the tax base by a partial tax swap with its below-state-norm sales tax, but refuses to.
(I trust readers will note that the tables of data linked above are facts, i.e., absent opinion. It is the position of Dr. Goree, as publicly pronounced via the news media, that my work is mere opinion. I cannot even credit him with originality since he is parroting Shreveport City Councilman Michael Corbin, another public official perturbed by my research.)
A key fact, staring at us from just across Red River, is that Caddo’s population is down -3.7% since 1986, while Bossier’s is up +38.6%. Property taxes there are half what they are in Caddo, most of which is attributable to the school board.
Put directly, taxes must only go DOWN, for years, if Caddo and Shreveport care to be saved.
Objective measures of the state department of education confirm how poor a job the CPSB does in educating our children. At the same time, other objective measures prove how awesomely great it is at running people out of here. Yes, it has help from the Caddo Commission and Shreveport City Hall – now led by a former CPSB superintendent – but the bulk of the damage traces to the school system. That does not include the vast majority of teachers, however … a fact well-known to most of us.
This “new” plan is nauseatingly familiar: preserve all taxes, mainly to benefit only those who will profit from the school board spending $108,000,000. That, of course, is only a redistribution of taxes paid by property owners to small and select few who profit from how that boatload of cash is spent.
The CPSB offers a 6-step plan. Acting in solidarity with the Caddo Commission and Shreveport City Hall:
(1) tax property owners here into leaving, then
(2) raise taxes even more on those who stay, then
(3) run more property owners out, then
(4) raise taxes even more on those who stay, then
(5) run more property owners out, then
(6) join the out-migration.
Such is our history for 30 years, including the number of public officials many of us know that reached Step #6 before the rest of us.
(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party. He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article. His work is strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is appreciated.)