To Voters of St. Mary Parish:
As voters go to the polls on Saturday, Oct. 22, the public school system of St. Mary Parish respectfully seeks the renewal of a long-standing property tax used to fund teaching salaries and educational benefits. As an established revenue source for public schools, the tax has enabled the district to sustain a teaching staff dedicated to meeting the varied academic needs of schools. The result has been an unprecedented academic growth as evidenced by annual accountability scores. Students have benefited from the tax revenue as schools are able to properly staff schools and specialized programs designed to meet specific learning needs.
The monies generated from the existing tax have further aided the district in maintaining instructional staff in lieu of declining state funds disseminated through the Minimum Foundation Program. A 3-year freeze on state spending levels coupled with economic instability has resulted in declining funding for school districts. Further, unfunded legislated mandates placed on schools add limitations to the school budgeting process.
The St. Mary Parish School Board has been particularly mindful of the economic downturn and remained focused on improving academic achievement. As a fiscally conservative governing board, the school system has been able to preserve student-based funding to prioritize classroom expenditures and avoid teacher layoffs or increases in class size. In comparison to surrounding school districts, St. Mary continues to benefit from a uniquely stable financial foundation due to this enduring tax base approved by voters.
Initially approved by the parish electorate in 1988, the St. Mary Consolidated School District #5 10-year, 11.18 mill property renewal tax generates $6.338 million annually for public schools. Monies collected from the millage are budgeted to fund classroom instructional staffs at schools throughout the district. Thus, a failure to renew the long-standing millage would result in a significant reduction of teachers and/or support personnel or across-the-board pay cuts for school board employees. Based on current budget projections, failure to renew this tax would eliminate funds allocated for approximately 127 school teachers or roughly 18 percent of instructors.
Early voting will continue through Saturday, Oct. 15, and can be conducted at both the Franklin and Morgan City Registrar of Voters locations, regardless of residency. As superintendent of schools, I strongly urge voters to express their continued support of public education in St. Mary by voting “yes” to the renewal of this critical funding source. Educational research overwhelming confirms the indisputable positive relationship between student academic achievement and quality classroom instruction. A favorable vote for the property tax renewal will secure the uninterrupted funding for schools and continue to equip classrooms with highly effective instructors.
Donald W. Aguillard, Ph.D.
Superintendent St. Mary Parish Schools