Terrebonne voters decide on school tax increase Saturday - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Terrebonne voters decide on school tax increase Saturday

Houma, La. - Terrebonne Parish School Superintendent Philip Martin started pitching his plan months ago.

"Being funded at 9.27 mills when the state average is 40 creates some unique difficult financial obstacles," he says.

Martin wants a 31-mill increase on property taxes, bringing the parish up to the state average of 40 mills for education.

"We're nowhere near where we should be or where we will be with adequate resources," he says. "There's no reason we can't be the premier school district in Louisiana."

Martin says the money would be used for improvements at schools across the district, where the average age of a building is 60 years.

Some campuses are overcrowded.  Mulberry Elementary School was built for 400 children but the current enrollment 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."

Martin says the money would also be used to increase salaries.   Terrebonne is ranked 45th in the state for teacher pay.

The Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce wants voters to reject the plan. Chamber President and CEO Gordon Crow says Martin and the board haven't provided information about how the money would be used.

"What we've seen from the school district is a wish list, is the kindest way we can put it," he says. "Our understanding is that's based on numbers that were drawn up some time ago, maybe a decade ago on assessments of needs and all that... We don't argue with the need, we just argue with the way we're going about it."

Crow hopes, if voter reject the plan Saturday, a smaller tax increase could be considered.

"Right now we're one of the lowest-funded school districts in the state.  In fact, we are the lowest," says Crow. "Coincidentally, we're also in the top third in performance. And we think that speaks volumes as well.  That getting to the state average is why the school district said they wanted to do this is not a good enough reason to vote for something."

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