School Board to vote on tax to increase student safety, seeks public input

Notice is hereby given that at its meeting to be held on Thursday, August 11 at 5 p.m. at its regular meeting place, the Parish School Board plans to consider adopting a resolution ordering and calling an election to be held in the Parish-wide School District of the Parish of Natchitoches, State of Louisiana to authorize the levy of a $5 million ad valorem (property) tax. Until the official vote, board members want to hear from their constituents. The tax is for 10 years and the public will have the chance to scrutinize or possibly non-renew the tax.

This tax would allow for the following:

  • A Minimum of one SRO at every public school campus (currently have 10 for 15 campuses)
  • Approximately 1.4 million would be allocated for the salaries and benefits of school resource
  • officers / remaining balance used for security equipment (AI, facial recognition).
  • Mill tax for a ten year period starting in 2023 and ending in 2032
  • We do not anticipate that this tax will have an excess of funds due to the ever changing shelf
  • life of technology. It doesn’t take long for cameras and equipment to become obsolete.
  • This tax will never go into General Fund – this would be against the law- this is a dedicated tax
  • Should the cost of providing officers be less than expected, the remaining money will be spent on additional security equipment or training

“The problem we’re facing is personnel,” said Natchitoches Parish Sheriff Stuart Wright. “It’s hard to recruit now. It’s different times.”

Currently the School Board reimburses $300,000 to the NPSO for the $900,000 cost of the 10 school resource officers that are currently working. The Sheriff’s Office pays the rest of the salaries for these officers. Wright said he doesn’t have deputies to fill the additional five SRO positions that are needed so that every school would have one full time. He explained that his office has more school resource officers in schools during the day versus patrol officers covering the 900 miles of road in Natchitoches Parish.

The consensus of school board members at the July 14 meeting was that the district needs to look into other resources that are available before a new tax is brought before residents. This would be seen as an additional burden being placed on people who are already struggling.

There are portions of the parish that will not see any changes in their property taxes. The board recently rolled back millages in the northern part of the parish. District 7 will be rolled back to 3.5 mills for 2022 bills. District 8 rolls back to 8 mills. District 9 (Ward 1 and the City of Natchitoches) rolls back to 1.1 mills, so it will not see the full 5 mill. 

“I don’t think this is the best way,” said Steven Harris, who added that the public was happy about recent savings the district has found. “At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s right. We have to secure our campuses no matter what. We have to find a way.”