The fate of the Morehouse Parish School System depends on a decision by the board to implement a plan which will close Henry V. Adams and Pine Grove Elementary school, combining them with Delta for grades kindergarten through four, transferring all students in grades five through eight to Morehouse Junior High and grades nine through twelve to Bastrop High School. There would also be a reduction in force, beginning with teachers who are not certified and highly qualified within targeted subject area. From the targeted areas, the reduction will start with the least effective teacher and proceed by effectiveness rating, which is determined by the performance evaluation program as provided in La. R.S. 17:3881 – 3905. Also to be riffed are employees other than professional staff who are not evaluated pursuant to the above statute, by performance and effectiveness as determined by Board policy and certification or academic preparation. This encompasses 52 positions; six from Henry V. Adams; 19 from Morehouse Junior High; eight from Pine Grove; five from Delta; two from Morehouse Magnet School and 12 from Bastrop High School.

There are 522 students from H.V. Adams and 370 students from Pine Grove who will be affected. There are also 187 students in grades fifth through eighth at Delta and 154 eighth graders at Bastrop High, who will be transferred to Morehouse Jr. High.

The total savings from this plan is projected to be $1,681,457 for the 2018 -2019 school year and $2,681,215 for the 2019 -2020 school year.

Superintendent Gray’s plan would have the two schools close at Christmas and the students report to their new School upon returning in January.

This plan, which was presented by School Superintendent David Gray at the regular board meeting held on November 8, is being met with contention from parents as well as community leaders. Because of the resistance of parents to close the two elementary schools, a committee was formed to try and find a different avenue to have the system be solvent through the end of the 2018 -2019 school year.

The Morehouse Parish 2012-2 committee was granted an opportunity to speak with the board at a special called meeting Tuesday, November 20. Former Bastrop Mayor Clarence Hawkins spoke about the possibility of the school board getting a loan to finish out the year and placing a property tax for the 2012-2 district, which encompasses all the city limits of Bastrop, to the Ouachita Parish line on Highways 165 and 139, to Red Hill on the Mer Rouge Road and portions of the Crossett Hwy. and Bonita Road. Beekman Charter School and Delta Jr. High already have their own tax districts, which would be exempt. Hawkins also suggested a five-cent sales tax for the same area.

The newly suggested plan would increase property taxes for those living in the district, but it is unknown what millage rate would need to be asked for.

The Louisiana Tax Commission defines a millage as the percentage of value that is used in calculating taxes. A mill is defined as 1/10 of 1 percent and is multiplied by the assessed value after any exemptions have been subtracted to calculate the taxes.

Who will be paying the ad valorem tax if passed? Property owners and business owners. The classification of property subject to ad valorem taxation and the percentage of fair market value applicable to each classification for the purpose of determining assessed value are 10 percent for land and improvements for residential; 15 percent for improvements for commercial and business movable property (personal); and 25 percent for public service (excluding land). If the tax rate is 150 mills and total assessed value is $10,000 with no exemptions, the taxes would be calculated as $10,000 x .150 = $1,500.00. With homestead exemption on the same house, the taxes would be: $10,000 - $7,500(H.E.) = $2,500.00 x .150 = $375.00 in taxes.

There are also special assessment levels for homeowners aged 65 and older. To qualify, the adjusted gross household income must be below a certain level. For the tax year 2016, that level was $71,491. This special assessment will freeze the assessed value of the homestead for as long as the applicant owns and resides in the home and income does not exceed the maximum allowed. This Special assessment level is lost if improvements in excess of 25% of the home’s value are added. The freeze also extends to a surviving spouse who is at least 55 years of age and meets all other qualifications.

In the 2017 Louisiana Tax Commission Annual Report, Morehouse Parish showed a total assessed value exclusive of Homestead Exemption of $145,640,220.00. Parish taxes (exclusive of Homestead Exemption) were as follows:

TAX

MILLAGE

AMOUNT

Parish General

4.44

$464,103.39

Parish Tax General (City)

2.22

$91,269.88

Public Building Maintenance

1.02

$148,551.48

Library Tax

3.31

$481,996.65

Health Unit & Other

.60

$87,385.04

Health Unit Construction

1.00

$145,646.56

Assessment District

3.50

$509,754.50

Agriculture Center

.57

$83,017.44

Law Enforcement District Tax

5.46

$795,199.01

Road Maintenance Tax

5.58

$812,674.59

School Taxes:

School Constitutional

School Special Maintenance

School Special leeway

Special Capital Improvements

School District #12

East Morehouse School District

Bond Debt Service

5.96

6.45

6.01

10.00

10.00

9.95

6.00

868,015.66

939,384.84

875,295.21

1,456,402.20

128,554.58

477,336.71

873,842.45

Levee Taxes:

Tensas Basin Levee

3.00

180,939.85

Drainage Taxes:

Drainage

Bonne Dee Drainage District

2.55

1.28

371,387.07

25,709.35

Miscellaneous Taxes:

Ward 2 Cemetery Tax

Ward 2 Cemetery Tax (37)

Ward 6 Fire District #1 Tax

Bastrop Area Fire District #2 Tax

Ward 10 Fire District #1

Ward 5 Fire District #1

Ward 8 Fire District #1

Ward 8 Fire District #1 (22)

Ward 2 Fire District #1

Bastrop Fire #2 M/H Fee

Hospital Service District

Hospital Service District #2

Bastrop Fire #2 BD. Fee

Forestry Fee

0.71

2.00

6.93

6.65

3.95

4.14

1.92

5.75

6.74

$175.00

8.00

5.00

$175.00

0.08 Per Acre

9,126.88

25,710.86

124,361.54

258,764.61

37,052.49

53,321.01

15,994.35

47,899.61

86,645.56

190,750.00

1,165,122.04

728,227.65

738,675.00

12,596.88

TOTAL PARISH & LOCAL TAXES

$13,310,714.94


Not everyone in the parish pays all the above millages, but for example, a homeowner with property on Martin Luther King Street that has an assessed value of $9,370 and homestead exemption of $6,970, has a taxable amount of $2,400. Their total taxes would be $1,228.97 less homestead exemption of $510.41, bringing their taxes due to $718.56. Of that amount, the school millage paid would be $68.20.

A homeowner with property in Beekman with an assessed value of $11,018 and homestead exemption of $5,550, has a taxable amount of $5,468. Their total taxes would be $1,045.61 less homestead exemption of $526.70, bringing their taxes due to $518.91. Of that amount, the school millage paid would be $155.40, plus the extra School District 12 tax of $54.68, bringing their total to $210.08.

A homeowner with property in Mer Rouge with an assessed value of $5,600 and homestead exemption of $5,600, has a taxable amount of $0.00. Their total taxes would be $594.83 less homestead exemption of $533.85, bringing their taxes due to $60.98. Of that amount, the school millage paid would be $0.00, including the extra East Morehouse School District.