What do you see as the main job responsibilities of a school board representative and how many school board meetings have you attended in person in the last two years?

The main responsibilities of a school board representative are to manage tax payor dollars through financial oversight and approval of the annual budget in such a way that every dollar spent on the District goes toward Improving Student Achievement. Additionally, the Board has the responsibility of hiring a quality Superintendent who then is charged to hire an appropriate staff that oversees the day to day activity of all schools in the district.  Lastly, the Board is responsible for approving policy that is to be administered throughout the District.  I’ve attended 8-10 school board meetings in the past two years.

 

What is the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) and why is it important to the St. Tammany schools?

The Minimum Foundation Program is a formula to equitably allocate funding for education to school districts. Funding through this program is provided to school districts as a block grant. After satisfying all mandated requirements, school districts have the flexibility to spend the funding to meet the needs of their schools and students. It is important to St. Tammany Parish because it currently makes up approximately 50% of the funding for the Parish’s school district budget.

 

The state has imposed numerous unfunded mandates on the St. Tammany school system. Discuss two of these mandates and how they affect the school-operating budget.

Unfunded mandates:

  1. The state requires that the School District fund increases in retiree benefit and employee healthcare costs without providing additional funding from the state.This costs the tax payor millions annually
  2. The state has required that school districts be at a 1:1 student to technology ratio (laptop or tablet) by 2020 without providing funding for the mandate. It’s estimated that this will cost the Parish tax payors $15 million

 

Tammany has an “out of district” policy that states a student must attend the public school in the district where the parent/ guardian owns a home and claims a homestead exemption or has proof of rent or lease.  There have been reported cases in which the policy has been violated.  A by-product of the policy violation is the overcrowding of some schools and under-utilization of others. Do you think anything should be done to balance the enrollment and reduce the need for more buildings? If so, what?

We should absolutely uncover abuses of this policy and get these children attending the schools they are supposed to attend based on where they live to alleviate overcrowding and underutilization. I think the best way to resolve this is by doing more regular residence verifications after a child is initially registered.  We could also have an anonymous whistleblower “policy” when abuses of this policy are known.

 

A major concern to parents and voters is the safety of our children while they are in our care at school.  By the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, all 55 schools will have a school resource officer (SRO) funded by FEMA and the BP oil settlement.  These funds will eventually expire.  Would you favor increasing the school board tax millage to cover this cost or do you have another suggestion for coming up with the money?

Yes, whether it be through tax millage increase, finding areas in the current budget, or pushing for an approval of a bond issue; the funding for SROs and MHPs must be found and made permanent. It is both a proactive and reactive way to protect our children against violence at school.

 

The Louisiana Industrial Ad Valorem Tax Exemption program allows school districts to reject exemptions that decrease the tax revenue available to the school board. What action, if any, should the school board take in compliance with the current law to adopt new policies and standards for industries seeking tax exemptions?  Do you think the school board should accept or reject most exemptions?

The School Board needs to adopt appropriate policies, procedures and guidelines for evaluating which businesses should be granted exemptions under this program.These guidelines should address where the business is domiciled, revenues and resulting sales tax generation, employee hiring and potential property and income tax generation.  If the taxes generated from economic growth provided by the company outweigh those lost by the property tax exemption then I would generally be in favor of granting the exemption.