by Elliott Stonecipher
(This is one in a continuing series of articles concerning the Caddo Parish School Board property tax millage proposition set for a May 2, 2015 election. If approved by voters, CPSB nets another $108,000,000 for new schools and other buildings.)
As the Caddo Parish School Board has rolled-out its tax plan over the past weeks, the list of reasons for voters to kill it, and send the board and staff back to the drawing board, grows and grows. Beginning here, I will boil the opposition case down to my Top 10 Reasons to Vote NO!
I began this months-long effort of research and writing last September. This article is the fifteenth in the series. I hope and trust the work explains to Caddo residents that taxing and spending and borrowing is already strangling the economic life out of our parish. Passing this plan will certainly hasten that process.
TOP 10 REASONS TO VOTE “NO” ON MAY 2ND!
#10. This Plan is for Taxing-and-Spending-and-Debt, Not Better Educations for Our Children
This CPSB plan includes just about zero for the all-important academic side of the educational equation. Neither does it do anything to improve our system’s employee salaries.
This is, in fact, a public policy misfire – a brick-and-mortar plan for a system long crushed under the fiscal weight of, yes, brick and mortar. The CPSB now has more schools and so-called “repurposed” school buildings than we had at the time of our desegregation “cross-over” in 1969-1970. We had 60,158 students then, but have 20,000 fewer now.
The Caddo Parish population peaked in 1986. We now face a future of continuing population out-migration owing to hugely high property taxes. For there to be hope that we will ever grow again, the CPSB must pay-down its existing debt of $123,961,505. Over time, that will erase our current 6.00-mill property tax for brick-and-mortar debt.
To compare this situation to the much more responsible days of our school system’s past, consider the following:
By 1984, just before construction of three schools – Turner Elementary in 1984, Keithville Middle in 1988 and Donnie Bickham in 1989 – the CPSB had diligently worked to pay down its debt to almost zero. Before building started, debt was a very low $2,400,000 … $5,200,000 inflation-adjusted to today. Now, with no concern for our future, the CPSB plans to enter the next few years of profligate spending on a completely unnecessary building spree with existing debt of $123,961,505.
I stress that voter approval of this plan will rocket our school system’s debt to over a quarter-billion dollars. (SEE details in this article.)
Here is how our property tax compares to like public school systems in Louisiana. (This 2014 data is provided by the Louisiana Department of Education, here. Scroll to property tax millage table.)
Caddo PSB ….. 75.66-mills
Bossier ….. 51.61-mills ….. CPSB is 46.6% higher
Rapides ….. 48.75-mills ….. CPSB 55.2% higher
Orleans ….. 43.71-mills ….. CPSB 73.1% higher
E. Baton Rouge ….. 43.35-mills ….. CPSB 74.5% higher
City of Monroe ….. 41.57-mills ….. CPSB 82.0% higher
Ouachita ….. 40.70-mills ….. CPSB 85.9% higher
Lafayette ….. 32.54-mills ….. CPSB 132.5% higher
Calcasieu ….. 30.58-mills ….. CPSB 147.4% higher
Jefferson ….. 22.70-mills ….. CPSB 233.3% higher
#9. System Intimidation of Employees to Pass This Plan
I have known and worked closely with many excellent CPSB members and top system staffers in my time. Now, though, our system is taking us back to the very damaging early 2000s. Not coincidentally, that was the first time this Southeast Shreveport school deception was tried – and strongly rejected by voters.
Confirmation of this path is the revelation this week that top system officials are strong-arming principals and other professional staff in order to pass this plan.
If the CPSB does anything other than dead-neutral sharing of factual information about the plan, such is illegal. As if to say “the Law be damned!,” a few top system bosses have written this memo – read it here – for students to take home to parents. The content well crosses the legal line over and into advocacy, meaning the use of tax money to pass the plan.
(The claim in this memo that this plan will not raise homeowners’ taxes is false. Any property tax millage still “on the books” will raise the homeowners’ taxes absent a public vote by the taxing body. The only millage which cannot and will not raise homeowners’ taxes is one which is kaput … zeroed … pushing-up-daises dead and buried!)
Too, there are constitutional and statutory safeguards to protect the intimidation of system employees to do any unethical and/or illegal things. Principals are, as this is written, being ordered to send copies of their signatures to Central Office for use in this aggressive campaign to pass a tax plan, regardless that principals will have no part in writing or approving messages they thus “sign” in absentia.
These heavy-handed tactics by system administrators, and possibly some CPSB members, reveal a system in ethical, if not legal, free fall.
… to be continued …
(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.)