Livingston Parish voters reject tax to fund teacher pay raise

LIVINGSTON — Voters in Livingston Parish have rejected a one-cent sales tax that would have funded an historic pay raise for teachers and staff, according to complete but unofficial election returns from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office.

Livingston Parish Parish Public Schools has been pushing for the one-cent sales tax to fund a stealthy 10% pay raise for the district’s 3,800 employees.

With all 79 precincts reporting, the parish-wide ballot item failed 54% to 46% of the vote, according to complete but unofficial election returns. Voter turnout was only 21 percent.

The tax, which school leaders recognized was an uphill battle, was touted as a way to solve a growing problem with not only retaining qualified teachers but also recruiting high qualified educators to the parish.

Livingston Parish has been forced to fill hundreds of open teacher and staff positions as experienced educators leave for either higher paying jobs in neighboring districts or leave the industry altogether.

The average salary for a first year teacher in Livingston Parish is $47,117, ranking last among five neighboring districts — Ascension Parish, Central Community Schools, East Baton Rouge Parish, Tangipahoa Parish and Zachary Community Schools.

25-year teachers rank fifth for their salaries of $58,256.

Livingston Parish Superintendent Joe Murphy told Unfiltered with Kiran last month that something must be done to improve his school system’s low ranking in teacher and employee pay, which has led to constant turnover in recent years – and a steady drop in school performance scores.

“What we’re experiencing is an out-migration because of a pay discrepancy,” Murphy said. “You lose people when they can go across the parish line to Tangipahoa and other places and make five or six thousand dollars more. The most important factor in a child’s development at school is the quality of the instructor across from them.”

With the failure of the one-cent, 20 year tax, Livingston Parish school leaders are forced to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to give teachers more money.

Ascension Parish educational renewals

Voters in Ascension Parish are overwhelmingly passing three different tax renewals, unofficial election returns show.

The first renewal is for 21 mills dedicated to employee salaries. The renewal generates $36 million for the district’s teachers, bus drivers, custodians, food service workers and other staff salaries.

The second renewal of 8 mills is dedicated to classroom and safety technology. The renewal generates $13 million for student laptops and other engaging learning opportunities for students. The money also goes to campus security systems, cameras and lighting.

The third renewal is for 4 mills dedicated to school facilities. The renewal generates $6 million for day-to-day maintenance and building improvement needs.

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