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Motion to give teachers pay raise fails in committee

Last Modified: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 10:26 PM

By Lance Traweek / American Press

A motion to give Calcasieu Parish schoolteachers a pay raise failed 6-5 in a School Board budget committee meeting Tuesday.

The raise would have been funded through a new 10-mill property tax that would have been put before voters for approval. The tax would have brought in about $3,000 per teacher and would have raised about $16 million parishwide.

The feeling of those opposed was that the timing was off, considering two existing millages will be up for renewal next spring. The first is a half-cent sales tax for salaries — a 10-year tax originally passed in 1995. The second is a 10-year, 3.5-mill property tax.

The two taxes together bring in about $28.2 million for the system’s general fund, said Karl Bruchhaus, chief financial officer.

Committee members opposed to the millage were Annette Ballard, Joe Andrepont, Mack Dellafosse, Bill Jongbloed, Randall Burleigh and Bryan LaRocque. Those in favor were Clara Duhon, Fredman Hardy, Jim Schooler, Dale Bernard and Roman L. Thompson.

A lot of the discussion among committee members stemmed from the economic expansion on the horizon for the parish, and “the board probably wants to sit back and watch that unfold,” Brucchaus said after the meeting.

Andrepont said there are “a number of people in this parish who are saying no more taxes.”

“I don’t want our employees to feel like we’re not sensitive to their needs because we are, but once we’re told ‘No’ by the public, then we’ve lost an opportunity,” Andrepont said before the vote.

“We need the renewals to survive,” Burleigh said during the meeting. “I don’t believe the timing is there.”

Jongbloed mentioned he wasn’t willing to “take a chance on the renewals failing.”

Teri Johnson, president of the Calcasieu Federation of Teachers, said she came up with the idea of the new millage. The system now ranks 42nd out of 69 districts among the state’s teacher salaries. Johnson said she was disappointed with the committee’s decision, but that she does “understand the facts of the situation.”

“I do hope they keep in mind we are losing teachers,” Johnson said after the meeting. “It’s definitely a fight that I will keep on fighting.”

Board members recently approved the sale of property the board owns to alleviate its deficit and is looking to make budget cuts in the coming year. Johnson said introducing a new millage is the only way teachers would be able to get a significant pay raise.

“We have got to start paying our teachers,” Hardy said during the meeting. Schooler, who made the motion for the new millage, said it’s been nearly four years without a pay raise for teachers. Schooler said he believed the “people of Calcasieu Parish would support” the new tax.

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