School District, Police Jury tax proposals top Saturday ballot


    After months of debate, the School Board’s parishwide 1 percent sales tax and the Police Jury’s four road district taxes await the voters’ decision in this Saturday’s election.
   The only local runoff is for police chief in Cottonport, where incumbent Earnest Anderson Jr. faces Steven John Gauthier.
   The runoff for U.S. senator pits Republican John Kennedy against Democrat Foster Campbell.
   Early voting closed this past Saturday and was down compared to the early voting for the Nov. 8 election.
   The tax proposals are the highlight of the local ballots.
Road districts taxes
   Police Jury President Charles Jones said the parish has 450 miles of road to maintain, with about 150 miles being dirt and gravel roads. 
There are 126 bridges on parish roads, with 65 of those being high-maintenance timber bridges. In addition, the Police Jury has 900 miles of drainage ditches to maintain.
The Police Jury created four road districts, with each district having about the same tax value.
  Road District 1 is Ward 2, including Marksville. Road District 2 is Wards 6, 7, 8 and 11, including Simmesport, Moreau-ville and Plaucheville. Road District 3 is Wards 1, 3, 4 and 5, including Mansura and Hessmer. Road District 4 is Wards 9 and 10, including Bunkie, Cottonport and Evergreen.
  If passed, each district’s tax will generate between $800,000 and $900,000 a year. 
  The decision on which projects to fund will be made by a road commission that includes the police jurors in that district and several citizens willing to serve on that board.
School Board sales tax
  School Superintendent Blaine Dauzat said the 1-cent sales tax would allow the school system to give teachers a $5,500 a year raise and support personnel a $2,500 pay increase. The tax can only be used to pay for school system employees’ salaries and benefits.
   Dauzat said Avoyelles’ starting salary for teachers is the lowest in the state. Its average teacher salary places it around 60 out of the state’s public school districts.
   Even with the $5,500 raise, the parish’s average teacher salary will be less than the state average.
Runoff elections
  Voters in Cottonport will choose who will be their chief of police for the next four years. Anderson was the top vote-getter in the Nov. 8 election, where he had three challengers.  Gauthier finished second to earn a spot in the Dec. 10 runoff.
  All voters will be able to cast a ballot for their choice for the U.S. Senate seat previously held by David Vitter. Vitter, an unsuccessful candidate for governor last year, chose not to seek re-election to the Senate.
   Kennedy is currently the state treasurer. Campbell is a former state senator and currently serves on the Public Service Commission.