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 the board are:

1.Hiring and supervising the school superintendent.

2.Representing the interests and concerns of the residents of the district to the administration.

3.Provide effective oversight to the budget and plans of the system.

In the past two years I have personally attended 28 full board meetings, committee of the whole meetings, and public hearings. In addition I have met with individual board members, school administrators, and central office staff.

 

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

The MFP is the primary vehicle for state funding to our school system. In 2018 the MFP provided $214,072,310 to the system, which was 51% of the General Fund budget. The MFP is important to the system because it is the largest single source of operating revenue and it greatly influences how many and what kinds of teachers and staff are hired by the system.

 

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.

There are at least a dozen unfunded mandates imposed on our school system. Two unfunded mandates that are particularly costly are nonpublic transportation at well over 1 million dollars/year and stipends for national board certified teachers at about $750,000/year. Both programs were established and initially funded by the state. Both are worthy programs that deserve support, but they are a significant cost and compete with other equally valuable programs.

 

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?

First, existing policies need to be fully enforced to limit this problem. Second, school boundary changes are the best long-term solution to resource usage issues in the parish. These should be discussed with the residents years in advance of any possible changes. I have participated in this process in the past and understand very well the difficulties. The way to solve these difficulties is to start years in advance to make everyone aware of the problem and aware of the benefits to come. That way every resident understands what the future holds and why it is necessary.

 

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 FEMA funds were used for this purpose. The new funding came entirely from the BP oil settlement. There is no need to increase the school tax millages. In fact I support the long-term trend of falling millage rates for our schools. The required support for these eminently justified programs can be and should be included into upcoming millage renewals. This is a common and proper mechanism that has been used numerous time in the past to gain public support to fund new programs.

 

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?

There must be a policy to evaluate very request with a cost benefit analysis. The loss to the board of immediate tax revenue must be balanced by the long-term gain in new jobs and new business revenue. When this issue came before the board in May of this year, the benefits to our local business and economy clearly paid for the relatively small loss in one-time revenue from the capital purchase seeking the exemption.