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Union Parish Voters Pass Taxes to Help Schools, What's Next?
UNION PARISH (KTVE/KARD) -- Union Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. George Cannon says Saturday was one of the most important days for them in 20 years.
"Saturday night I think the people spoke," he said. "The last couple of weeks of the campaign, you could feel the momentum kind of changing in the direction of the school district, because I think people realized what we're proposing, is the future of our kids and the future of the parish as well."
For the May 3rd general election on Saturday, voters passed two taxes meant to help the school district. The first -- a 20 year, 13.5 mill property levy.
"To raise money to refurbish and renovate and build some new construction in the district, so that every one of our schools are prepared to house kids in programs that are modern and a facility that does what it's supposed to do and to give our kids the same opportunities that kids everywhere else in the state have," said Cannon.
He says some of the school programs they've had planned for the district couldn't be put into place without getting more funding to update buildings.
"Because the buildings we have are archaic and they're not wired for the technology that we need," said Cannon.
The second item voters approved is a one cent sales tax.
"Generating money to put programs in those buildings that are really going to affect how kids learn and make them competitive with everyone else," said Cannon.
The money will go toward buses, too.
"We have the oldest bus fleet in the state, our buses are falling apart," Cannon said.
In the past two decades, Cannon said voters struck down similar tax referendums to help schools. In 2011, they were up for a renewal on the current tax of 15 mils, and it was passed.
Then in May 2013, the district went to the people for a large referendum, and it failed 56 to 44 percent.
So what made this time different?
"I think we were clear and consistent with the message, I think people began to see what we were talking about made sense," said Cannon.
He says on Saturday, they had a huge voter turn out.
"I think 36 percent of the registered voters in Union Parish were out Saturday to vote" said Cannon. "That's about a thousand more than the turnout in the sheriff's race a month before."
This summer -- the school board will put together a five year plan they'll present to the community.
"So that's why it's really important that we really describe for our public sometime this summer, a picture of what they can expect -- so they can be part of it, too.," Cannon said.
He says it shouldn't take more than two and a half years to renovate the schools once they get started.
"You'll probably be seeing in about 16 to 18 months a lot of new construction and things happening," he said.
Cannon says it will still take architects about nine months to put together the plans before they go for bidding.
"So you ought to see some things within a year beginning to happen," he said.
They will put some new school learning programs in place a little earlier, but Cannon says other programs won't begin until the buildings are complete.
"Now we believe we can put in place the things that will give our kids the advantages they deserve," said Cannon.