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Union Parish School Board Hopeful for Community Support in May 2014 Election
UNION PARISH -- It's a yearly struggle for Union Parish Schools when it comes to funding.
Superintendent Dr. George Cannon says they face buildings in disrepair and aging school buses.
"We probably have the oldest fleet in the state of Louisiana, about a third of our fleet is approaching 30 years of age."
Next year, elementary schools in Bernice and Spearsville will shut their doors.
"That's essential , given the fact that we're a rural parish with very limited resources. Educating a child in Farmerville for about $5,500 a year - this year, we're spending $11,000 per child in Spearsville," said Cannon. "Given the small population and big geography, transportation is an issue in Union Parish. These are the last 200 kids in the district going to rural schools."
"The important thing is not the bus ride. It's what's on the other end of that bus ride, it's what we're trying to do is give our kids in our parish the same opportunities that their counterparts have everywhere else to be competitive," said Cannon.
In last year's election, tax proposals meant to help the school district failed.
District officials have tweaked their upcoming ballot proposal and are giving it another go this year.
"After last year's defeat, we had to go back and start talking to people and see what the community's perception of what they wanted their schools to be," said Cannon.
Here's the new plan on the ballot: a 42.5 million dollar property referendum, and a 13 millage tax on real estate with an additional one cent sales tax.
"We're able to present to the voters the one cent sales tax, thanks to Rob Shadoin, who's our legislator, who last year, brought special legislation that permits us to do that," said Cannon.
Some parts of the parish already hit the sales tax cap. That's where House Bill 97 comes in, authored by Ruston Attorney and State Representative for District 12, Rob Shadoin.
"I was able to find a bill that originated in the senate, that would allow me to piggy back on that," he said.
It passed in last year's session. The bill allows Union Parish to collect an additional sales and use tax that doesn't exceed one percent, for benefit of schools.
"This lays the foundation, and gives the school board the authority to put this on the ballot," said Shadoin.
Cannon says with new leadership at D'Arbonne Woods Charter School comes newfound support.
"We've got a partnership with D'Arbonne Woods this time around, and it's beneficial to us, and beneficial to them," said Cannon. "We serve really as the transporter of pretty much all of the public school and private school kids in the parish."
Cannon is hopeful to turn things around for the district financially, once and for all.
"If we can get the community to believe that our solution is their solution, our kids will have a better education next year," he said.
Public outreach on the may proposal hasn't started just yet.
The election is set for May 3, 2014