Two school tax proposals on November ballot in St. Helena - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Two school tax proposals on November ballot in St. Helena

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GREENSBURG, LA (WAFB) -

It's deja vu for schools in St. Helena Parish. An item voters have knocked down several times before is back on the ballot. That item is a tax to fund a raise for teachers and renovate the schools. The new superintendent says she feels sure this plan will pass.

Kelli Joseph came to St. Helena ready to make changes. In her first days as superintendent she told employees to roll with the program or roll out. Some people left, she says. Joseph says her focus is on what's best for the children. And now with school funds being stretched to the brim, she says she needs the publics help to bring the best to the district.

St. Helena has been identified by the Louisiana Department of Education as number one in the state for academic growth. More students are improving and meeting state standards and more teachers in the classrooms are certified.

The superintendent says she's squeezing each dollar to make sure her students are successful, but it's getting tougher.

"When I came in, we had a 1.5 million dollar deficit," Joseph said. "It has been reduced to $297,000. We've done more with less."

Joseph says using new grants, loans and refocusing existing dollars, they have been able to get rid of graffiti in the high school auditorium, paint the gym for the first time in 30 years and plan for new floors. But more funding is needed to overhaul the rest of the building.

"We have done all that we can possibly do with the current budget," Joseph said.

Two proposals: one a bond, the other a millage increase - will be on the November ballot in St. Helena. One will give teachers about a six thousand dollar pay raise. A bump up from the $30,000 most start out making. The other will go toward paying for school construction.

"Renovations to the schools. We're not talking about basic painting or changing out doors. Talking about gutting out schools and making it like new," she said.

That would mean students at the high school get a real library. What's there now is mostly classroom text books, with only two shelves holding books that can be checked out.

If the tax passes, the library would also be turned into a multimedia room.

"It is the lowest millage that we've requested. Past millages asked for 55 mills...we're asking for 25.8 mills." For a $200,000 home, that would mean an additional $322 in property taxes per year.

Joseph added by the end of October, the system will also know if they will be approved for district-wide accreditation.

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