The Lafourche School Board has once again failed to get support a ballot measure that would reduce its size from 15 to nine members.
The board voted 7-7 Wednesday night on whether to present the issue to voters.
Here's how members voted:
For: Ray Bernard, Mary Breaud, Dennis Chiasson, Marian Fertitta, Brooke Huddleston, Gregg Stall and Raymond Toups.
Against: Al Archer, Richmond Boyd, Julie Breaux, Calvin Duet, Clyde Duplantis, Gary Foret and Ann Sanamo.
A bill on the size reduction was also proposed in the Legislature by state Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, but it was deferred by the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee in mid-April and wasn’t revived. Chabert says most of the pushback he heard was from current School Board members.
Donald Johnson, who is waiting on state approval to represent the District 1 School Board seat after the death of Louis Thibodaux, couldn't vote on the measure. Johnson said he was disappointed by the decision not to postpone the item until he can vote and called that a sign of disrespect.
“I’m the new kid on the block,” said Johnson. “A request was made by the president to table this until I get my full approval from the state so my district can be fully represented. You have a whole district that’s not even going to be represented now. Yes we do represent different districts, but as a board we represent every teacher, parent and student in Lafourche Parish. This means that the parents and teachers of District 1 won’t have any representation on this matter.”
Lafourche resident Al Carter took a Facebook poll to determine how the public felt about the issue. Of the 938 votes the poll received, 97 percent were in favor of a reduction.
“This battle has become personal for some representatives and is no longer about saving money or amending the budget,” said Breaux’s husband, Mark. “This cut would amount to less than 1 percent of the board’s total spending.”
If the board drops by four members, it would directly save more than $39,000 per year, Business Manager Don Gaudet said. The number rises to more than $58,000 if it drops six members and more than $77,000 if it drops eight.
Mark Breaux says this issue has been voted on four or five times in the past with the same results. He added that failure to find closure will eventually drag down the entire School Board.
“This board had the chance to save money by reducing the stipend from $800 to $400 a month for School Board members, but that motion was postponed indefinitely,” he said.
Proponents of the 15-member board say with more members, more ideas and opinions can be presented that others may not have realized.
Mark Breaux said this will, in turn, elevate discussion and make for a quality board. If the board is reduced from 15 to nine, it would leave north Lafourche with four votes, central Lafourche with three votes and south Lafourche with two. This is not fair representation, he said.
-- Staff Writer Scott McLendon can be reached at 857-2204 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @mclendon_b