School board elects new officers, talks taxes

school-board-jan-12-2017

The Natchitoches Parish School Board elected officers for 2017 at its meeting Thursday night, January 12.  Ralph Wilson was elected as president and Mike Hilton was elected as vice president. There were seven yes votes for Hilton and three no’s, with one board member absent.

Agenda items relating to taxes include:

Adopt a resolution ordering and calling an election to be held in School Sales tax District to authorize the levy of a sales and use tax

Adopt a resolution ordering and calling a special election to be held in Consolidated School District No. 7 to authorize the incurring of debt and issuance of bonds

Joella Collins voiced her concern over rumors that if the tax doesn’t pass, then the board would take their employees tax checks. Superintendent Dale Skinner said this would be a last resort.

“The bottom line is it’s important the tax and millage pass,” he said.

Collins said the tax passage has no bearing on if school board employees will or will not get tax checks.

“I don’t know who’s saying it, but it’s a lie as far as I’m concerned,” she said. “I would never support it.”

When Skinner asked what the board members expected to happen if the state says they have to balance the budget, Pastor Steven Harris said they should cut jobs first.

On the executive report, an item to consider approving no out-of-state reimbursement for school board members travel without prior approval from the board died for lack of a second. However, it was stated that this particular policy already exists.

The next item to consider approving no in-state reimbursement for school board members travel without prior board approval caused some friction at the meeting.

Hilton suggested that board members take the responsibility of their travel expenses upon themselves.

“With considering cuts and asking for taxes we have to show some fiscal responsibility and I think this is the way to do it,” he said.

According to Hilton, there were approximately $125,000 in board expenses last year. While around $80,000 was board pay, the difference was travel expenses. While this might not seem like a lot to some people, Hilton said this money could be put toward the schools.
“Why not say we’re gonna do this (forgo travel expenses) for the good of the school system,” he said. “Board pay and board travel are on the table.”

Harris called for the board to vote and there were five in favor of the item and five against it.

Another agenda item to give permission to advertise for bids for section 16 land for hunting purposes was tabled due to a board member’s absence.

The board also accepted the School Student Activity Fund audit for 2016 from Roger Cunningham. This annual report covers money raised by students at schools in the parish for fundraisers, athletics and extracurricular activities. Cunningham said there’s close to $1 million running through the school system and the report makes sure there’s policies in place to track the money.

On June 30, 2016 all schools were holding $850,000 cash at the end of the year. The total monies collected at all the schools was over $2 million. The last part of the report is the most important part, according to Cunningham. It looks at internal control and compliance and while Cunningham said there were no findings to report, it did suggest some areas for improvement.

MEETING WAS STREAMED LIVE on the Natchitoches Parish Journal: