OUR VIEW: Terrebonne school tax worth your consideration
Supporters say the proposition before voters Saturday is a simple one.
The Terrebonne Parish School District is seeking a 1/2 cent sales tax, with 100 percent of the proceeds dedicated to teacher and employee salaries.
It is certainly a far simpler choice than the one facing voters last year, a millage increase with no specific dedication other than that it would go to the school system.
At that time voters were presented with an array of programs and projects as well as increased teacher pay that would be paid for with the money collected.
Staunchly opposed by members of the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce and others in the business community, that proposal was rejected.
The new proposal, arrived at after direct involvement of the business community with other people claiming a stake in Terrebonne’s growth, is indeed far more direct.
Judging by the appearance of supporting signs on local lawns, the sales tax will have a much easier path to passage.
And we don’t see that as a bad thing at all.
Education in Louisiana is chronically underfunded. Visitors from other states marvel at the relatively small amount of money property taxes generate for schools. Some are not kind at all when referencing the apparent lack of commitment to education by the Bayou State.
In addition to traditionally low property taxes, Louisiana also has a liberal homestead exemption that is not likely to ever disappear.
The sales tax offers a more solid base that will allow education officials to plan with greater ease. It also is the most fairly distributed tax one can think of for such a purpose. The burden will fall on those with children in the school system and those who do not, on visitors relying on services provided by those being educated or who have learned their trades through local education.
The few vocal opponents to the tax who have spoken out offer statistical reasons for voting down the tax. Teachers, they say, don’t need more money.
But Schools Superintendent Philip Martin has convincingly made the case that higher salaries will make for a bigger pool of qualified candidates to choose from in the future.
When it comes to some specialties the most qualified teachers will be and are already in demand. It makes no sense for Terrebonne Parish – which has proven its ability to provide a quality public education even with fiscal times being tight – to be at the back of the line when it comes to recruiting teacher talent.
To turn our backs on the educational system at this point, after acknowledged community leaders from many disciplines have put together a program they think will work, would make no sense.
We have taxed ourselves to pay for better hurricane protection because we saw that the state and the federal government were unable to match our needs.
We are now asked to tax ourselves to make sure that there are qualified people coming out of our school system to help us solve those problems and more.
The sales tax and teacher pay raises that will result from it are not panaceas. Much more will need to be done at many levels to ensure that our children receive the best we can obtain for them. But it is a good start, and we are certainly willing to put our money where our words are.