Part 2: No Way Around It … This CPSB Stuff is Unthinkable
March 23, 2016
In Part I of this series (read it here), I detailed the very negative effects on our Caddo Parish economy of our ultra high property taxes. This article further probes the subject, highlighting particular practices of our Caddo Parish School Board and administration in that regard.
(Parish voters will go to the polls on April 9th to approve, or not, three property taxes totaling 27.09-mills, some 35% of the total property taxes it rakes in. Voted down, property taxes would be lowered the same amount.)
Why We Are Foolish To Trust the CPSB Millage Numbers
I believe each of us should send a salute in the direction of the Caddo Parish School Board internal auditors. We need fewer top administrative bosses there and more auditors … like Jeff Howard and Allison May, in the subject audit.
Their work proves – beyond any reasonable doubt – that Caddo Parish citizens would be non compos mentis (which is to say, nutso) to believe what system bosses tell us about how the money we give them is spent. We are told the April 9th ballot props for the CPSB are 20.18-mills is for “Salary & Benefits,” 5.56-mills for “Maintenance,” and 1.35-mills for “Technology.” I don’t believe it. Not for a second.
Enter Ms. May and Mr. Howard. As KTBS Television explained in a subject October 2015 report (SEE Here), the internal audit into the Capital Construction and Projects Department “raised red flags.” As I read it, that red flag is blimp-sized.
Long story short, the department is responsible for “planning, bidding and monitoring construction and special projects” for the system, but – drum roll please – they actually spend willy-nilly – a boon to the brick and mortar patronage which is now Job #1 for the system. (SEE my article last week, re: West Shreveport and Central Elementaries … here).
In 2014-2015, the Patronage Department (as I call it), went $1.5 million over a $20,000,000 budget and did not get approval from and by the school board. Even worse …
1) Auditors sampled 20 of the 138 “special projects” (pure patronage, I’d bet) that school year, and “… there was no paperwork showing who requested or approved the projects, or why they were needed.”
2) The head guy notes that the department has an $11.5 million reserve, and “… the (school board) is aware that the reserve fund is there.”
(3) The KTBS report notes, “… money designated for construction work was used for textbooks and instructional equipment.”
OK. Enough. This stuff is way beyond a failure of CPSB and staff leadership. This is something much worse, and I think all honest people know it. At this point, “Yes” voters own this right along with them. The folly is writ large.
NEXT SUBJECT: CPSB Love and Lust for Property Taxes
The abusive over-reliance on property taxes by CPSB – in lieu of less spending and/or other tax types – jumps off the page in any consideration of system funding. It is very important to note that such is not an accident. In fact, property taxes are the proud, specific and very unfair preference of school system bosses.
In a meeting with those bosses in 2014, I specifically appealed for such a shift of some property tax to sales taxes since ours for CPSB is a half-percent below the state norm. I was quickly reproached by one boss who knee-jerk parroted the decades old rubric about sales tax unfairness. Rather than dispute that, my point was fairness of another kind: mitigating as possible the open and deliberate abuse of those who own homes and other property. In other words, a semblance of balance in the choices of revenue sources. I was allowed a couple of sentences … finis.
The rule had been that locals could levy up to a 9.0% sales tax without legislative approval, and given that the Caddo sales tax total was 4-tenths lower, at 8.6%, it could be raised with local voter approval to 9.0% in a revenue swap with property taxes.
The CPSB finance chief says each 1-10th of its sales tax totals $5,000,000 a year, so the subject 4-10ths is equal to some $20,000,000 annual revenue. In 2015, its property tax collections totaled $126,412,493, or about $1,677,000 per mill. In other words, a 4-10ths increase in sales tax would have allowed a property tax reduction of 12.00-mills.
Make no mistake, a CPSB property tax down to 63.00-mills is still very high in comparison to other Louisiana parishes and districts. Bossier Parish schools levy just under 52.00-mills, for example. Still, any cut would be a dramatic first.
Given that Governor J. B. Edwards and the legislature have since raised our Louisiana sales tax by another penny – 9.6% in Shreveport as of April 1st (and that’s no April Fools joke) – the described tax swap would take us to 10.0% total.
… more later …
(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party, and has long been a registered “Other,” or Independent. He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article. His work is strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is appreciated.)