Pointe Coupee Parish School Board members will resume discussion tonight, Sept. 17, on how the school system should implement the pay hike included in a millage package voters approved in August.
The board will discuss the matter during its executive committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the Central Office.
A final vote on the matter would not come until at least next week when the board meets for its regular meeting on Sept. 24.
The disagreement between board members and teachers centers on whether the raise should reflect pay for the calendar year or the school year.
Teachers have remained back at school after a Sept. 4 sickout and Sept. 9 walkout.
The no-shows stemmed from the board’s action at a special meeting Sept. 3 in which it refused to rescind a decision that would begin the pay raises in January, as part of a measure approved at the regular meeting Aug. 27.
Board President Tom Nelson told teachers and school support staff last week he was confident the board could reach a decision.
“Nothing has changed since last week,” he said.
Livonia High School teacher and former School Board member Clayton Chenevert – who has spoken on behalf of the parish educators – said they went back to the classroom on Nelson’s assurance that the board would work toward a compromise.
It was Nelson’s assurance that brought teachers back to the classroom, Chenevert said.
“We had other things planned, but once Tom Nelson assured the board would work things out and we’d get our raise, the teachers decided to stand back and let them work it out,” he said.
“Tom said he didn’t know how it would look, but teachers will get their full raise this school year.”
School Board member Jason Lemoine, who heads the Finance Committee, said he has spent the week clearing misconceptions about the board’s intentions.
He said board members want to see teachers receive the entire raise, but they wanted to dole out the money when the tax revenue became available in January, which would fall in place with the calendar year.
“I’ve had people tell me we promised them a $6,000 raise and that we decided to only give them $3,000 the first school year and that for the life of the tax, the teachers will only get 3,000 a year,” Lemoine said.
“It just so happens that when we collect the money in the middle of the school year, it would seem logical you get half of the raise and you get the entire amount the next school year.”
Lemoine said he and five other board members opposed dipping into the general fund to pay out $3,000 to teachers in increments in December, January and May.
He argued that it could leave the school system short on funding for the 2021-22 school year.
The School Board will get some fiscal help through the reassessment, which the state mandates each parish assessor to conduct every four years.
The reassessment will boost School Board funding $7 million a year, according to Pointe Coupee Parish Assessor Jimmy Laurent.
The board got another break when the Assessor’s Office negotiated with CLECO on a 35 percent reduction in assessment on a 50-year-old coal fire plant, rather than the 80 percent cut the utility company requested. Industrial tax exemptions that will soon roll off the books will make up for that loss, Laurent said.
The reduction from 80 percent to 35 percent spares the School Board a loss of around $300,000, Lemoine said.
The new assessed values and the CLECO deal open the doors to possibilities on the pay raise.
“The main thing I want people to understand is that now we’re dealing with new generated tax money allocated for teacher pay raises,” he said.
“Before that, we were going to expend all of that and be short $600,000 and have to pull from somewhere.”
The millage election was set to go on the May 9 ballot, but a state order forced its postponement until July due to the coronavirus. It was delayed once more, until Aug. 15.
Laurent got the paperwork to the Louisiana Tax Commission just before deadline for the millage to go on this year’s tax rolls.
“Once we get to January 2022 tax collection, we will be fine … all the money will be allocated properly,” Lemoine said.
“We were at the start of the school year, halfway in it and having to pay the front half of that money with fund we haven’t collected.”
Chenevert said he still believes that the plan Canezaro brought before the School Board was the best solution.
“The superintendent’s numbers were in line and fair – she was prepared, did her homework and had a good plan,” he said. “As for now, we don’t care what they do, as long as it gets done.
“They can choose any idea or plan, just as long as we get our raise this school year,” Chenevert said.