Teacher pay, technology millages soundly defeated by Bossier Parish voters

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By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

Two proposed tax millages that would have gone towards a pay raise for teachers and created a technology funding source for schools were soundly defeated by voters Saturday.

Election results show with 100 percent of all precincts reporting that a 22.94 mills property tax for boosting teacher and support staff salaries was defeated 74 percent to 26 percent.

A 3.22 mills ballot measure that would have created a funding source for technology was defeated 75 percent to 25 percent. 

“We are understandably disappointed that competitive salaries will continue to be out of reach for the 3,000-plus educators and support employees that make Bossier Schools the outstanding school system it is,” said Sonja Bailes, public relations liaison for Bossier Parish Schools, in a statement. “Over the last few months, we have heard the viewpoints from numerous residents and business leaders, as well as their pledge of support for educators, and look forward to working together to find an alternative solution that will offer the children of Bossier Parish in the best educational outcome they deserve.”

The millages had been a contentious item in the community with statistics showing the millages would have caused property taxes to rise by nearly 40 percent. 

Several business owners came out against the millages, with some even creating or sponsoring PACs to combat the millages, feeling the burden would rest mainly on their shoulders. 

Stats from the Bossier Parish Tax Assessor’s office supported this notion, showing businesses would bear 70 percent of the property taxes. An additional cost of $17.5 million, according to 2019 estimates.

The Bossier Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors was one of the first to take a stand on the millages, issuing a request in mid-April for the Bossier Parish School Board to pull the ballot items.

“We know the outcome of this vote is not what our school employees were hoping for, but we think there is a solution where teachers and support staff can get a much-needed raise but also keep property tax rates affordable for our residents and businesses,” Lisa Johnson, president and CEO of the Bossier Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. 

The chamber’s stance was due in part to finding a more collaborative solution that didn’t put such a large burden on local business and residents.

“There is not an easy answer or it would have been found by now,” Johnson added. “But we think with collaborative meetings, a true and hard look at the budget of our school district, as well as structured pay increases that meet the needs of the district to support weaknesses and promote achievement within our schools, we can all have confidence in a plan that includes all stakeholders in the solution.”

She said the millages’ defeat was not a win for the business community. 

“This election has not been a win for anyone. There are no real winners as it has divided, or appeared to have divided, the community. The people went to the polls and they have expressed their concern about paying more property tax dollars,” Johnson said.

She added the chamber has plans for a roundtable discussion between interested parties next week.

The Bossier Education Coalition had formed from teachers and education advocates to promote the millages in the community. One of the co-organizers, Parkway High School teacher Meredith McGovern, told the Press-Tribune that the coalition was disappointed by the result but encouraged by the level of conversation regarding teacher pay in Bossier Parish. 

“We look forward to continuing our efforts to elevate the voices of educators in Bossier Schools and will continue to work with the school board in finding innovative ways to attract and retain quality educators, and improve pay for Bossier employees,” McGovern said in an emailed response. “We would like to thank the many local businesses who support educators and pledged their support for this election. We also thank all the educators and employees who volunteered their time in this effort.”