Terrebonne Parish voters approved a ½-cent sales tax for schools Saturday, with the proceeds dedicated to salary increases for teachers and support personnel.
They also unseated their current city marshal, who oversees the transporting defendants – primarily children – to and from Houma City Court and also serving legal papers.
Orville Callahan, a former Houma police chief, ousted incumbent Brian LeBlanc by a margin of 723 votes.
In the tax election final but unofficial results from the Louisiana Secretary of State, with all precincts reporting, showed a positive vote of 14,469 or 58.13 percent, compared to a negative vote of 10,422 or 41.87 percent.
“The winners in this are right at 19,000 school children,” said Superintendent of Schools Philip Martin after learning of the sales tax passage. “Those are the real winners, the real beneficiaries of all of this, and at the heart of this that is what it is all about.”
Martin said the tax will be collected starting in April, and that the money will then be made available to the school system.
Teacher and staff raises will not begin, Martin said, until the 2015 school year.
There were visible signs of support during the campaign for the sales tax, but Martin said despite a lot of positive sentiment he was not certain until the very last votes were counted that the plan would be approved. The campaign, he said, proved to be a learning experience.
“I learned that when you include all aspects of the community and get that green light it is very assuring,” he said. “But to say I thought it was a done deal no, I did not.”
Martin was among school officials who spoke at various community meetings and events, providing information about the tax and the reasons for it.
“If there were more than two people in a room and they let me speak I would talk to them,” Martin said.
The school tax was a comeback effort following voter rejection of a property tax increase last year. Critics said the plan was not specific enough, and the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce helped to mold the plan for a sales tax, dedicated exclusively to salaries.
The City Marshal election proved to be a squeaker, with incumbent LeBlanc losing the post by 723 votes. With all precincts in Terrebonne reporting 51.51 percent of voters, a total of 12,363, had cast their ballots for Callahan.
LeBlanc drew 11,640 votes, or 48.49 percent.
LeBlanc was not taking calls Saturday night.
Callahan, celebrating his win in Dularge with supporters, expressed thanks to voters and praised LeBlanc for “running a clean race.”
“I’m glad the people of Terrebonne Parish showed up to vote, I am thankful to God and thankful to the people of the parish,” Callahan said.
The campaign, he said, was in no way easy, noting LeBlanc’s incumbent edge.
“I walked house-to-house, I sent mail-outs, I worked very hard,” Callahan said.