Editorial: Two recent tax propositions offer interesting case study

The fate of two tax propositions on some Calcasieu Parish ballots underscores a simple lesson: elected officials that place the items before the voters better make a strong case for them.

That’s clearly was the moral when voters primarily in Sulphur approved a 1.87-mill property tax to fund $8 million in bonds

over 20 years to pay for improvements to Sulphur High School’s athletic facilities. The proposition passed by a margin of

68 percent to 32 percent.

Meanwhile in Lake Charles, voters rejected a 5-mill, 10-year property tax that would have funded improvements at eight schools

in the central and southern parts of the city. Opponents won the day by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin.

The Sulphur issue had advantages. First, it was clear to understand. The improvements will include new grandstands on both

the home and visitors side of Matt Walker Memorial Stadium, as well as upgrades to the sound system and fencing around the

stadium.

It also benefited from being a single issue for one school and a source of civic pride which Sulphur has in abundance.

A media campaign that included newspaper and radio advertising touted the proposal also factored in swaying voters’ opinions.

In contract, the Lake Charles proposition had no such advantages. With so many schools involved in School District 34 — Barbe

High, S.J. Welsh Middle and Dolby, Barbe, Nelson, College Oaks, St. John and Prien Lake elementary schools — there was no

single rallying point.

The issue suffered from a dearth of promotion from Calcasieu Parish School Board members elected to serve the district and

School Superintendent Wayne Savoy. Not only the final results, but an embarrassing 6 percent voter turnout is Exhibit A in

that neglect.

The Lake Charles District proposal

included funding for technology and security upgrades and air

conditioning improvements,

all of which have a direct bearing on classroom performance. Other

issues like traffic control, cafeteria seating improvements

and parking upgrades would, on balance, seem to have at least as

much importance as the athletic facility upgrades in Sulphur.

The difference in success and failure here was in the sales pitch.

This is a lesson that has been

learned the hard way by administrations of the City of Lake Charles and

the Calcasieu Parish

Police Jury. No longer can a tax proposition of any variety be

slapped on a ballot with the assumption that it will sail through.

The case has to be made and voters convinced that the wish list that taxpayers are being asked to fund is necessary.

In this latest case, the school issue proponents on the west side of the river scored a touchdown while those on the east

side fumbled the ball.

 

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.