Are Lincoln Teachers Opposing a New Property Tax?

12/20/2018

This memo was published yesterday on Ruston Rants. Though we cannot vouch for the veracity of the authors, it has reportedly been sent to school board members.

From a group of teachers to our Lincoln Parish School board members.

1. We do not agree with the proposed property tax and will not vote for it. We will do everything in our power to make sure it does not pass.

2. We think the move sixth grade to the junior high would be a disaster. Kids love the one year at IAL and we do not want a large middle school. The junior high is a tough place and has struggled the last several years. Making it larger will only magnify the problems and involve younger children in the issues.

3. We have SRO officers assigned to every school and they are present in our schools. We do not need to say we will provide more officers for more time until we see the exact amount needed and how much we plan to give them. A property tax is probably not needed for this.

4. Teachers will not vote for this tax because of a $500 raise. After taxes, that will be $20 a month and not worth it.

5. Our teachers in this parish need a substantial raise to increase applications and interest in our parish. Teacher quality is everything and is going down. The surrounding parishes make more money that Lincoln. People used to be to teach in this parish but now we can’t find enough teachers.

6. Teachers are still mad that Mike Milstead got a raise. Why? Why? Why? Teachers have not had a raise in years and HE got a raise. We were scared to make a big deal of this but were stunned that you would want to give him a raise and stunned he would take it.

7. Mike Milstead is selling his house and moving to Shreveport but he wants us to pass a property tax.

8. Teacher morale is very low. It is time to focus on how to meet our students needs rather than build buildings like the STEM building. That was another mistake.

9. The enhanced summer school is a joke despite the wonderful presentation given to the board a while back. Attendance last summer was horrible. Students had constant field trips and activities to try to keep them happy. Is the enhanced summer school worth $1 million every summer? Until students attend on a regular basis and there is more time spent on academics instead of fun, it will not get results. First it was for low level students then it was for anybody we could convince to come. We got desperate for anyone.

10. What would be wrong with waiting for several years of data to make sure the summer school is worth clearing a building out for it? Why spend millions to move sixth grade before we even know summer school will last for the long haul?

11. We wish you could visit our schools more. We wish we felt safe to talk to you. We need your help. We are scared to talk to you, and Mike Milstead does not want to hear our ideas and he certainly does not want to talk to you.

12. Why do you allow Mike Milstead to hire an extra attorney to “sugar coat” things like summer school and a property tax. If we have to hire someone to sell an idea we probably do not need it. Has anyone asked what we are paying for that?

13. Mike Milstead wants to spend money on buildings and big ideas and is going to spend all our money and retire. Why do we rush into spending large amounts of money? How much has he spent in his time as superintendent? Please check the money. HE LOVES TO SPEND MONEY.

14. Please listen and help us. This tax will be a mistake and it will be embarrassing when it does not pass.

WE WANT LINCOLN PARISH TO BE THE BEST!

Here is the original which was also sent to us Tuesday night.

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Someone’s Not Being Truthful about Lincoln Parish School Resource Officers

12/14/2018

There are questions regarding the Lincoln Parish School Resource Officers (SRO) Program that need to be answered prior to any vote for additional taxes.

Specifically, taxpayers need to know which of the district’s schools now have an SRO assigned to them, and what agency has ownership of the program.

Here’s what’s posted on the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s website:

School Resource Officer

Deputies in the Juvenile Division are certified as an SRO. Deputies are assigned a school that they work at to provide security and safety for the students, faculty and staff. The SRO’s work during the school day as well as school sponsored events. The Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office currently has SRO’s assigned to all parish schools from Elementary to High School.

From Sheriff Mike Stone’s 4/8/15 re-election announcement:

“We’ve always been prudent and good stewards of the public’s money,” Stone said. “From putting School Resource Officers in our schools to adding an elderly protection officer and implementing the ‘How are You’ program to check on our seniors, we’ve been able to offer the services that help make Lincoln Parish a safe environment to live, work and raise families.”

In a 1/27/12 press release asking voters to approve a 1/4 cent sales tax increase, Stone said this:

“When we took office eight years ago, we promised several things,” Stone said. “More patrol and visibility on the street, adding an additional investigator, strengthening our drug interdiction (LPNET) and elderly protection (TRIAD) programs, putting an SRO officer in every school, improving litter abatement and animal control, and adding special patrol deputies (SCAT and CAP).”

“We feel we’ve delivered on our promises and have been good stewards of the public’s money, and we ask for your trust that we will continue to do so.”

It is clear that Stone has claimed ownership of the School Resource Officer program ever since he’s been in office. Nothing has ever been said by the Sheriff’s Office that indicates the school district should pay for the program.

But at last week’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board, District Superintendent Mike Milstead said that only half the district’s schools had SROs assigned to them, and that the additional officers would have to be paid for by a new property tax.

Said Milstead, “One of the main components, and the original main thrust of this was for the safety of our children. Every one of our schools should have a School Resource Officer. Right now, thanks to the generosity of the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Department and a grant they have, seven of the schools have full-time School Resource Officers. But that means seven do not. We as a district need to everything we can to make it possible for our kids to have a safe learning environment.”

Clearly, Milstead is claiming that the primary need for new taxes is based on the safety of schoolchildren.

So which is it?

Do all Lincoln Parish Schools have SROs, or not? Or has Stone not fulfilled his promises to protect “all parish schools from Elementary to High School?”

And, if the cost of the SRO program must now be borne by the school district, when did that shift occur? Stone indicated in 2012 that part of the reason for a new tax was to help pay for the SRO program.

Or is the children safety issue being used to frighten taxpayers into supporting another tax increase, while most of the money goes elsewhere?

Detention Center Commission Adopts Budgets

12/13/2018

2019 and 2018 (amended) budgets for the Lincoln Parish Detention Center were adopted at yesterday’s meeting of the commission that runs the jail.

The 2018 budget was amended to show $4.06 million in revenues and expenditures.

The 2019 budget predicts $6.87 million in revenues and $6.83 million in expenditures. The jump reflects the expected cost of the new 100 bed wing that is in the planning stage.

See here the documents:

2018 amended
2019 proposed

There was a bit of discussion about what effect a new law would have on jail operations, where next year 17-year olds charged with a crime will be treated as juveniles, rather than adults. Juveniles must be incarcerated in facilities separate from adult prisoners.

Also, jail Warden Jim Tuten announced that Chad Alexander had been promoted to Assitant Warden at the jail, effective December 7.

Said Tuten, “He brings a lot of experience with him, and I’m glad to have him over there with me.”

LPPJ Adopts Budgets

12/12/2018

Last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) saw final adoption of several budgets for 2019.

For the LPPJ:

2018 Amended Budget
2019 Proposed Budget

For the Humanitarian Enterprises of Lincoln Parish (HELP):

2018 Amended Budget
2019 Proposed Budget

For the Lincoln Parish Exhibition Center:

2018 Amended and 2019 Proposed Budgets

The jury also appointed/reappointed several board members for the Ruston/Lincoln Convention and Vistors Bureau.

Representing the LPPJ is Skip Russell. Jeff Parker will represent the Ruston Banking Association. For the City of Ruston, Josh Perot. Staci Faulkner will represent the Retail Merchants Association.

LPNO readers will recall that the CVB lobbied the Ruston City Council two weeks ago when the hotel/restaurant tax was approved by the council.

Despite being a taxpayer funded group, the CVB supported the tax.

There was one other noteworthy event last night – what WASN’T on the agenda.

Last month, a proposal to hire the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office to man metal detectors at the Lincoln Parish Court House south entrance was on the agenda and was discussed, but no action was taken.

At that meeting, Personnel/Benefits Committee chair Hazel Hunter said it would be on the December agenda, but it was nowhere to be found.

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Tuesday

12/10/2018

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury will meet Tuesday, December 11, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Here are the meeting times and agendas.

Public Works Committee – 6:00 PM
agenda

Police Jury – 7:00 PM
agenda

School Tax Spending Details Shown

12/08/2018

Details of a proposed 11.6 mil school property tax show that most of the funds are not allocated for student security, despite the plan being touted for that purpose.

Project SECURE (Safety Enhanced Campuses United for a more Robust Education) was extensively discussed at last Tuesday’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board. It consists of a 1.8 mil, 20 year tax that would be used to borrow up to $11 1/2 million for capital projects, and a 9.8 mil, 10 year tax for operations.

The 1.8 mil levy would collect from property owners about $850 thousand/yr, and the 9.8 mil about $4.6 million/yr.

Only about 12% of the operations tax would go directly toward school security.

$525 thousand of the $4.6 million would be used to hire seven additional School Resource Officers.

The largest allocation of funds from that tax is listed as general operations, about $1.4 million. That includes MFP (state funding) fluctuations, replacement of lost dollars to charter schools, and funds to pay employee insurance.

The second largest amount is listed as about $1.2 million for the Enhanced School Calendar (summerschool).

Of the $11.5 million for capital projects, $2.3 million, or about 26%, is allocated for updated secure school entrances.

The largest fund allocation is $4 million, or about 35%, for the addition of 6th grade classrooms at Ruston Junior High.

Another $3.85 million is for Early Childhood classrooms at

See here the complete list of projects and fund allocation.

Should the board approve at the January meeting, a May election will scheduled for the two propositions.

Lincoln School Tax Hike had been Planned for Months

12/05/2018

A memo from New Orleans attorneys Foley & Judell to Lincoln Parish School District officials reveals that the tax plan recently revealed has been in the works since last summer. The memo, dated 7/31/2018, is a tentative timeline of how events would need to proceed in order to conduct an election next May 4.

Foley & Judell has served as the parish’s bond counsel for years.

See here the memo.

What is also likely is that many, if not most of the school board was kept in the dark about the plan, otherwise it would have been made public prior to late last week.

The issue was discussed at last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board.

Lincoln Parish News Online visited with District Superintendent Mike Milstead prior to the meeting, and he provided us with several documents that show a general outline of what the two millages will fund.

A 1.8 mil tax will provide revenue to fund about $11.8 million of borrowing for capital (buildings and equipment) expenditures:

Updated secure entrances to schools.
Construction of a 6th grade center at Ruston Junior High.
I. A. Lewis would be converted into Enhance School Calendar (summerschool) campus.
Fourteen new Early Childhood classrooms.
Maintenance facility.

A 9.8 mil tax will provide funding for ongoing operation of several programs:

Additional School Resource officers.
Three new mental health specialists.
Additional funding for the Enhanced School Calendar.
Pay student supply fees up to $60.
Pay hike for teachers and support personnel ($500/$250).

See here the list.

See here the propositions.

Milstead also provided us with brochure that shows how much more taxes homeowners could expect to pay should the propositions pass. He said that the brochure hadn’t been finalized and that some of the wording might change.

See here the document.

Milstead has also promised to provide us with a dollar cost breakdown of the various projects and operational costs. We had not received that list as of this afternoon.

During the meeting, a couple of the school board members had questions.

District One’s Susan Wyly was concerned that the January board meeting is scheduled for 10:30 AM, where many of the taxpaying public who work wouldn’t be able to at attend.

Said Wyly, “10:30 is just a time that most people are working. For a public meeting, I was thinking that 6 would be a better time.”

Another member asked what would take place at the January meeting, and Business Manager George Murphy said that there would be a resolution presented to call for an election.

Police Juror Sharyon Mayfield asked if some the board’s reserve funds could be used to fund the projects.

Murphy said that for the past two years, the district had spent more money than it had coming in and that they couldn’t afford to do that any more.

We also asked about prior spending, and why lower priority projects got funded instead of student security.

Milstead replied, “I can’t go back 5 or 10 years with what has been done as far as capital is concerned. We are where we are, and we move on.”

Brief Ruston City Council Meeting Last Night

12/04/2018

Now that the heavy lifting of seizing more money from taxpayers got done last week, the Ruston City Council was able to get back to regular business for last night’s meeting.

The meeting lasted about 15 minutes.

First up, an ordinance was introduced setting the date, time, and place of next year’s council meetings.

Traditionally, the meeting dates are the first business Monday of the month at 5:30 PM at the Ruston City Hall. The only meeting that deviates from that schedule is the 8/19/19 meeting, which will be at 6:30 PM. Usually, that meeting serves as a budget review where the next fiscal year’s budget is introduced.

Assistant Public Works Director John Freeman reported that the airport received a $46 thousand grant from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to replace runway reflectors.

Finally, the council approved 90-day deadlines for improvements to two substandard structures, one at 1109 Oakdale, and the other at 800 Lewis.

Ruston City Council Tonight

12/03/2018

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet in regular session this evening (Monday, 12/3) at 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.

School Board to Ask for New Property Taxes next May

12/01/2018

The Lincoln Parish School Board will be asking parish voters to pay more property taxes in a special election to be called for next May 4, Lincoln Parish News Online has learned.

According to a memo distributed to board members, there will be a resolution to be considered at the 1/8/19 meeting of the board that will call for the election.

Notice is hereby given that at its meeting to be held on Tuesday, January 8, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. at the Cypress Springs Elementary School, 1040 Saratoga Street, Ruston, Louisiana, the Parish School Board of the Parish of Lincoln, State of Louisiana, plans to consider adopting a resolution ordering and calling a special election to be held in Consolidated School District No. 1 of the Parish of Lincoln, State of Louisiana to authorize the issuance of general obligation bonds and/or to authorize the levy of an ad valorem tax.

Here’s the complete memo.

Reportedly, the tax will be an additional 11.6 mils, parish-wide. At present, the school board collects 43.64 mils in the Ruston School District. Some districts pay more.

An 11.6 mil rate can be expected to collect slightly over $5 million/year from Lincoln Parish property owners.

It is unclear what the new taxes will be for, but expect that answers will be provided at next Tuesday’s board meeting, 6:00 PM, 12/4/18, Central Office, 410 South Farmerville Street.

Here’s the agenda.