West Baton Rouge school district asks voters to pass two tax proposals in December

WEST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - When voters go back to the polls in December, they will be facing a long list of proposed taxes and its likely turn out will be lower, which means they have a good chance at passing.

West Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Wes Watts has a big goal for his school district. He hopes to see the district become one of the top 10 school districts in Louisiana.

However, in order to reach that goal, Watts said the school needs some extra funding. So the school district is turning to voters.

Two different school tax proposals are on the December ballot in West Baton Rouge Parish. The first is a 12-mil, 10-year property tax that would give teachers a $5,000 pay raise. Watts said that bump in pay not only benefits employees, it will help recruit more teachers.

"We're the lowest paying out of all our surrounding parishes, except for one. So the people we compete with, we're a good bit behind them. We need to close that gap," Watts said.

The second tax is a bond issue that would pay for a new high school in Brusly and a new K-8 school in Erwinville. It would also pay for needed repairs and upgrades for every school in the district. For taxpayers, it would be another 8-mil which could be increased up to 15 mils over 20 years.

"Average age of our school buildings is 53 years old. Our newest building is 24 years old. The life expectancy of a school building is 25 to 30 years before you need to do some major renovations. So, we're well beyond that point," Watts said.

Voters could pass one, both or none of the proposed taxes.

If voters only pass the 12-mill tax giving school employees a raise, the district estimates that a home worth $150,000 would see an additional $90 in property taxes per year.

If voters pass both tax proposals, the district estimates taxpayers will see an extra $150 in property taxes for that same home value in the first year.

Watts admitted that it is not an ideal time to ask for more taxes, but he hopes voters will decide to support the school district.

The district is also hosting informational meetings for the public to answer any questions about the proposals.

The next meeting is Tuesday, November 15 at Brusly High School Cafeteria at 6 p.m.  The last meeting will be held Monday, November 21 at the Port Allen Community Center at 6 p.m.

Copyright 2016 WAFB. All rights reserved.