The local school district has begun setting into motion the process toward asking the public to approve a new tax to help raise teacher pay and incentivize teachers to stay.

Tangipahoa Parish School Board this week announced its plans to discuss the matter at the Jan. 5 board meeting. The discussion topic is the possibility of placing a new property or sales tax proposition on the April 24 election ballot.

Newly elected board President Robin Abrams said the board is leaning toward asking voters to approve a half-cent sales tax, which would go toward a 7 percent pay raise for all full-time Tangipahoa Parish School System employees.

“We’re losing teachers to Livingston and St. Tammany because pay is not where it needs to be,” she said.

The one-time 13th check that school system employees will receive this month will not resolve the matter of them being underpaid, said board member Brett Duncan. He said the district does not pay them enough, but it pays them what it can afford to at this time.

“...What our employees really need and what our system really needs is a permanent long-term substantial pay raise for all of our employees,” Duncan said.

To raise the quality of education for children, nothing is more important or effective than putting more highly qualified teachers in the classroom, he said.

“We are at a crisis point in our system with a lack of the number of those people that we need,” he said. “We do not have enough high-quality teachers, and the only way we can turn that around is by being more competitive than what we pay our employees, and specifically our teachers.”

Keeping teachers

Competition for keeping teachers was discussed during Tuesday’s school system personnel committee when members voted to recommend the hiring of 16 new teachers and 20 new support staff. Only five of the 16 teachers are certified.

Director of Human Resources Gavin Vitter explained why the board must so many new people now as opposed to earlier in the year.

“We always play our little game with St. Tammany where there will probably be some cherry picking of some of our teachers, either geographically or some salaries issues,” Vitter said. “The reason why we’re probably seeing a later process is because they [St. Tammany] didn’t get started because of their COVID issues well into September.”

Another challenge is the rise of the offshoot and one-startup virtual school systems that are appealing now to teachers who want to work from home, he added.

There will also be some retirements soon, he said.

Facilities improvement board

Tangipahoa Parish School Board currently collects a 2 percent sales tax. The Educational Facilities Improvement District Board was created at the last meeting to help the board if it decides to levy an additional sales tax.

Chief Financial Officer Bret Schnadelbach said the school board would have to ask this newly created board to place a tax on the ballot for the scjpp; board, and if approved, this new board would receive the sales tax collections and send it to the school board.

School board members accepted Jonathan Rucker’s resignation from this new board because he is not a full-time resident of the parish, which is a requirement he was unaware of at the time of his commitment. School board members agreed to place Duncan on the board instead, giving the school board a voice on this connected new board.

Also serving on this new board are Kentwood Councilman Tre’Von Cooper, Amite City Mayor Walter Daniels, Daryl Ferrara with First Guaranty Bank, Tangipahoa Parish President Robby Miller, Mark Verbois with Enterprise Rental and former school board member and educator Theresa Domiano.

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