Judge Asked to OK Taxes for Schools

Debra Lemoine, The Advocate, June 22, 2010

The St. Helena Parish School Board is asking a federal judge to impose a 62.3-mill property tax to increase employee salaries and another property tax large enough to fund $27.5 million in school construction.

In March, School Board Attorney Nelson Taylor filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge James J. Brady to impose a property tax without an election as part of the school system’s 57-year-old desegregation case.

In a plan on the tax request filed Friday in federal court in Baton Rouge, Nelson said the school system lacks the finances it needs to remove all vestiges of segregation.

“The white community not only abandoned the public school system physically, it withdrew its financial support as well,” Nelson wrote.

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During a May 19 court hearing, Brady welcomed the tax proposal suggestion and asked for attorneys to submit more information within a month.

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Taylor, the school system’s attorney, said in an interview Monday that none of the parties to the desegregation case have objected to the tax plan. He said the next step would likely be asking Brady to tour the schools.

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School Board member Alton Travis said Monday he was shocked such a proposal went to the judge without going to the full board for review first.

During the June 10 board meeting, about two dozen parish residents came to protest the tax proposal.

An owner of a home assessed at $100,000 with a homestead exemption could expect to pay $155 a year if the 62.3-mill tax is imposed, Tax Assessor Wesley Blades said Monday.

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