FJHS school tax fails on ballot

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A proposed tax increase, which would have funded a new Franklinton Junior High School and improvements at other Washington Parish schools, failed by an almost 2-to-1 margin in the election held Saturday.

The vote was 33 percent in favor of passage, and 67 percent against. Unofficial turnout was 21.1 percent of eligible voters.

On the ballot was the Washington Parish School Board’s consolidated bond issue for District 4, which was a $28-million, 20-year bond issue to fund a new Franklinton Junior High School and to provide classroom additions and other improvements at both Pine Junior/Senior High School and at Thomas Elementary School. It would have resulted in an increase of the existing property tax, from 16 mills to 29 mills.

“We came up short tonight,” Washington Parish School Board member John Wyble posted on Facebook after the vote. “There are no winners tonight: not even those who voted no. Our students, children and our communities really lost out tonight.

“We will regroup, look at the data and come back with another strategy. Tonight doesn’t change the fact that the current FJHS is not suitable for our students.”

Wyble, who has a son who currently attends FJHS, said Tuesday morning that the school was built in 1939 and is now well past its capacity.

“There was a lot of community support,” he said. “Unfortunately that didn’t translate into going and voting. This whole community would have benefitted.”

Wyble said the school board must now look at the information available and develop a strategy for the future.

“We’ve had population growth, and that results in more students attending our schools,” he said. “We have to look at the data and figure a new strategy. We have to educate our public. As a taxpayer, you’ve got to know where your money is going.”

Wyble said the school board as a whole would have to decide for or against another general vote on the issue.

Attempts to reach Washington Parish Superintendent Darrell Fairburn for comment were not successful.