Houma, La. - It's Grandparents Day at Mulberry Elementary, making the normally crowded cafeteria even more cramped. The school was originally built for 400 children but the current enrollment here is 970.
"Even at recess it's difficult," says Principal Mary Aucoin. "We have three separate recesses so we can get the children into the bathrooms."
Aucoin says her school desperately needs more space. Nearly half the students are packed into portables, including the 98-member band.
"With all of the equipment that teachers have, all the supplies that students need, especially with the new Common Core Curriculum, we need more storage space," she says.
Expanding the school takes money and Mulberry Elementary is one reason the Terrebonne Parish School Board wants a property tax increase.
"We collect the least millage for education in Terrebonne Parish in the state of Louisiana," says board member L.P. Bordelon. "We're at about 9.5 mills for education in Terrebonne Parish and that puts us dead last."
Bordelon says the district wants a 31-mill increase, bringing Terrebonne up to the state average of 40-mills for education. The owner of a $150,000 dollar home would see the school tax go up from about $67 a year to more than $230.
That money would help pay for new construction at most of the campuses across the parish. The average age of a school building here is 60 years old. Money generated by the millage increase would also pay for raises across the school district.
Bordelon says it's important for Terrebonne Parish to be competitive. The parish is ranked 47th in the state for beginning teacher pay.
We asked our Facebook friends what they thought about the proposed tax increase.
Trudy Doiron writes, "I agree that more money is needed but I believe the property owners should not have to pay for it. Sales tax that everyone pays would be more fair."
"It needs to be done," says Dayne Francis. "If our kids continue to be offered a below average education, we will continue to see below average results."
Voters will decide on the tax increase on May 4. If it passes, Bordelon says it will still take time to see all the improvements.
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