Jefferson leaders plan to try again after major millage defeats

Jefferson Parish officials are planning their next move after voter rejection of school, sewer and water tax renewals on Saturday. They say next time around, they will leave little to chance.

It was an election that caught some school leaders off guard.

"I take the blame for that," said School Board President Larry Dale. "We should have done a better job of letting people know how important that was."

Jefferson Parish voters rejected millage renewals, for sewer, water and schools Saturday, threatening teacher layoffs and possible school closures.

"It's my daughter's last year, but I still wouldn't want nothing to happen," said school parent Priscilla Smith.

It's the first time ever that Jefferson Parish voters didn't vote to renew an existing school tax. "It's true, those are passed matter of factly," said Dale.

School officials say the money is more important now than ever before, with so much money going into computerization and security.

School board officials released a statement Monday, saying they plan another election this fall, eager to avoid cuts that could hurt recent gains.  "We had 27 top-gain public schools, by far the highest in the state," said Dale.

Some blamed the defeat on the effort to kill the tolls; others blamed a letter from the assessor, warning of possible tax increases.

The parents we spoke with said they had no idea of the tax renewals going into Saturday's vote, and they had very little indication there would be severe impacts.

"There wasn't any educational work done to educate the community," said Melanie Munch with the Jefferson Federation of Teachers.

If the cuts come down, the school board president believes it can be done without layoffs that would impact the class.  That might be tough, if voters don't eventually renew the 7-mill property tax, which raises $23 million a year for Jefferson Parish schools.

Jefferson Parish schools may not be the only entity asking voters to reconsider taxes this fall. A statement from Jefferson Parish President John Young  says he's also reviewing his options when it comes to sewerage and water millage renewals. He says he will be meeting with parish council members to discuss all options, including the placing of renewals on the ballot this fall.