METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - Jefferson Parish School Board members are debating which way to go next after voters narrowly defeated a measure that would have raised teacher pay.
The Jefferson Parish School System is drawing more students in recent years, thanks in part to magnet schools performing at high levels.
But in spite of recent successes, parish voters narrowly killed a measure Saturday that would have lifted the pay of teachers, and other instructors, by 10 percent, and out of the metro cellar.
At less than $41,000 a year, starting pay for a Jefferson Parish teacher is the lowest in the region. But voters said no by a narrow margin to a 10-year, 8.45 mill property tax increase.
"I'm normally a no new tax kinda person, but I understand our teachers and support employees should be compensated better, but I didn't believe in the tactics used in that election," said board member Larry Dale.
Dale said teachers need raises, but he says the measure failed because voters were not fully informed on where the money would go.
"It wasn't transparent. It's their money. Our people should know the entire story," said Dale.
But board member Marion Bonura, said voters were informed about a $27 million plan that would have provided raises, not just to teachers but to paraprofessionals as well.
"For $16,000 thousand, they take care of special needs students...They could make more money flipping hamburgers," said Bonura.
The millage was defeated by less than 500 votes after drawing opposition from the Bureau of Governmental Research, which called for a comprehensive study of school needs before any new tax is passed.
"I think the BGR got it right," said Dale.
The school board is now engaged in a facility study that should be completed early next year.
"What's next? We'll wait for that new report, and then we will decide what to do," said Bonura.
But at least one board member wants cuts to administrative overhead, before any new taxes are considered.
"I think we need to push our resources down from central office to schools," said Dale.
Once that's done, Dale says raises should be targeted for teachers in hard to recruit areas.
The school system says Jefferson Parish teachers earn about $40,900 a year. Plaquemines parish teacher starting pay, leads the region, at $46,300 a year. Some board members say a new millage measure, could go before voters in the fall of 2018.