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?

I see the main job responsibilities of a school board representative as:

-Setting the educational and financial directions of the entire district in a fiduciary manner

-Establishing an effective and efficient operating structure by setting priorities while paying close attention to the district’s main concerns for academic achievement

-Providing support to the schools, teachers, support staff, and students and their parents

-Adopting and overseeing the annual budget

-Ensuring the accountability of the Central Office and the decision-makers within

-Hiring and evaluating the Superintendent

-Delivering civic and community leadership as advocates for the children, the school district, and the public schools

-Managing the collective bargaining process(es) for employees of the district

I have attended two school board meetings in person in the last two years.

 

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

I had to research this but I am now enlightened. Under the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), Louisiana annually adopts 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 (LouisianaBelieves.com, 2018). This is extremely important to St. Tammany schools because this formula determines the range of per pupil funding. I am intrigued because I am a numbers person, but I cannot seem to find any information about the structure of the MFP formula itself. I do realize that the outcomes of the formula (the funding levels determined by the formula) are analyzed based on how well the goals of the formula are achieved by each district.

 

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.

1) Workers Compensation Claims – such claims are caused by injuries and illnesses on the job and can get unmanageable if protocols are not put in place. Workers compensation costs are measured in terms of incurred losses on an operating budget. Incurred losses include both the paid to date and the reserve amount for the estimated future cost of claims, and each claim can be multiple hits to the school operating budget.

2) Postemployment Benefits Plan – such plans provide workers with a specified level of annual retirement payments until the workers (or, in some cases, their beneficiaries) die. In most cases employees contribute portions of their salaries to these plans, but government employers – and, by extension, taxpayers – must fund them, no matter how expensive they become.

These and other unfunded mandates (e.g., employee health insurance benefits) impose significant financial burdens on St. Tammany’s school operating budget and the tax payers that support it; this in turn affects the school system’s ability to deliver proper infrastructure improvements and services. On the other hand, the increasing cost of unfunded mandates is due in large part to factors beyond the control of the St. Tammany school system, like long-standing unfunded liabilities and poor funding/investment decisions. They all affect the overall solvency of the St. Tammany school system.

 

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?

Some of this “out of district” policy violation has to do with sports and the prohibited recruiting done by coaches. I do not see where some schools are under-utilized but a balanced enrollment process is essential – or, plans for new schools and permanent buildings should come to the table. Ironically, St. Tammany Parish has only eight public high schools in the entire parish which leads to overcrowding; all of these high schools are landlocked with no room for additional buildings or expansion. I believe a fair redistricting should occur now. The gerrymandering that occurred in 2011 needs revisiting.

 

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?

NO I am not in favor of increasing the school board tax millage! Do we not pay enough in taxes? Granted, I want to put a permanent School Resource Officer (or two depending on the size of the campus) in each school because research has shown that the constant presence of law enforcement is a deterrent. The money for permanent SROs is already present. The current St. Tammany Parish School Board has the resources to make this happen. Fear, propaganda, and political agendas have driven the talk of increasing tax millages and introducing new millages. Accountability for current funds is paramount to making sure the children are the main priority.

 

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?

Tax exemptions are a slippery slope – a “Catch 22” of funding and business regulation with short- and long-term effects for all – because we are all aware that property taxes fund the school systems.

A little history for those unaware: The Louisiana Industrial Ad Valorem Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) is an original state incentive program that offers an attractive tax incentive for manufacturers within the state. The Industrial Tax Exemption Law (10-Year Tax Exemption Program) provides that any manufacturing establishment entering Louisiana or any manufacturing establishment expanding its existing Louisiana facility, is eligible to receive exemption from state, parish, and local property taxes for a period up to 10 years (the exemption is for an initial term of no more than five calendar years and may be renewed for an additional five years). The law is administered by the Louisiana Office of Business Development as part of the State’s overall economic development program and has been the state’s principal industrial inducement since 1936. The law was made part of the new state constitution in 1974, so it will take ratification to change or eliminate it.

Considering that the tax exemption is approved or denied by the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry, which actually establishes the rules and regulations for applying for the 10-Year Program, I do not see where the school board has a say in accepting or rejecting most exemptions. These tax emptions are granted only if the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry AND the Governor concur that such exemption is in the best interest of the state. I do believe, however, that Superintendents should lobby for the best interest of their school district and voice what is best for the students. Seeing as the Superintendent is hired and monitored by the school board, the school board’s wishes should be relayed by the Superintendent to the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry AND the Governor.