Age old tax puts voters on the spot

ST. GABRIEL, LA (WAFB) - A tax that has been supporting schools in Iberville Parish for 74 years is in jeopardy. Voters chose to not renew it last April. It is on the ballot, again, this Saturday. If it is rejected, students could feel the impact.

You are not likely to find Math, Science and Arts Academy East Campus Principal Chuck Johnson sitting in his office.

"One of the things I did tell them is to make sure halls a couple of times a day were cleaned, sweep in between each class," Chuck Johnson said he tells his custodians.

Johnson has a hands-on approach to supervising the daily operations of the new school. Project Manager, Patrick Norris, is tasked with making sure 69 maintenance workers and custodians keep the ten Iberville Parish Schools campuses clean and current.

"Most people don't recognize the maintenance department until there air conditioning is broken and they're sweating," Patrick Norris said.

A voter-approved school maintenance tax covers 33 percent of the department's salaries, school utilities, cleaning supplies, and the basic essentials. Norris says if voters reject the tax on Saturday, the school system could seriously suffer.

We could dismiss every employee in maintenance department and all 69 would not be enough savings to cover the loss," Norris said.

Because school administrators say getting rid of the maintenance department is not an option, the loss of revenue would ultimately trickle down to the classrooms.

Johnson says the small teacher-to-student ratio that has kept Iberville Parish students competitive with some of the top-ranked school systems in the state would disappear with a loss of teachers.

"Teachers, class size, could be increased. That's a possibility that could directly impact our student achievement and performance," Johnson said.

Johnson says he is hoping voters see beyond the buckets, brooms and vacuums when they go to the polls on Saturday.

Iberville Parish Schools have already lost around 40 teachers due to state budget cuts.

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