Patterson school tax approved

Hattie Watts Elementary School students and staff took a photo on their campus this morning to thank the community for approval of a 15-mill property tax to replace Patterson Junior High and add a multi-purpose building to Hattie Watts Elementary. About 73 percent of voters approved the tax that will support $21 million in bonds to be paid over 20 years.
 
By JEAN L. KAESS
Voters approved all four tax propositions in St. Mary Parish Saturday.
While three of the taxes were renewal millages, the Ward 5 Special School District voters authorized a 15-mill property tax to replace Patterson Junior High and add a multi-purpose building to Hattie Watts Elementary.
That tax supports $21 million in bond sales, will be repaid over 20 years and was supported by 73 percent of the vote.
Unofficial results from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office indicate that 16.9 percent of the voters eligible to partake in the election did so, with 734 votes for and 271 against being recorded.
The junior high is plagued with interior walls separating from exterior walls, cracks in interior and exterior walls, moisture problems and inadequate flooring. Exterior brick cracking results in water hazards, flooding and insect infestations as well as expensive loss of heating and cooling.
In addition, student population growth has surged in the Patterson community, leaving schools without additional classroom space to access in the event of future expansion.
Numerous public and school system officials expressed their appreciation for the passage of the tax.
Ginger Griffin, District 5 School Board member representing Patterson, said “It was my sincere hope that the community would pull together and truly embrace the fact that our kids not only need this, but also deserve it. The 73 percent favorable vote clearly shows the deep pride and firm belief the community has in our Patterson schools, including a willingness to financially support its educational future.”
Griffin continued, “This marks a new era in Patterson as the community has banded together to provide a better future for our young people. It’s an exciting time for us. My heartfelt thanks goes out to all the voters and to the many concerned individuals who helped obtain voter approval.”
She added that she’s spent a lot of time with the school’s two administrators — Niki Fryou at Hattie Watts Elementary and Suzanne Bergeron at Patterson Junior High — over the last week walking neighborhoods and talking to families.
Fryou thanked the community members who went out to support the proposition.
“Your involvement in this election is yet another showing of what amazing parents and community members we have in our Patterson area,” Fryou said. “Educating our children is a team effort. It takes all of us — teachers, parents, students and community members coming together in so many ways. We will continue to make Patterson proud. Thanks again to all our voters.”
Bergeron echoed similar sentiments.
“My heartfelt thanks go out to the voters who supported the future of education in Patterson. All children deserve a school facility that they can take pride and feel safe in. And that was the message portrayed by the voters Saturday: that our children deserve the best. When my teachers received word that the tax had passed, there was a resounding, ‘Thank you!’ I couldn’t have said it any better.”  
Marilyn LaSalle, District 6 School Board member also representing Patterson, similarly was thankful.
“To be honest, my first words were ‘Thank you Jesus,’ because prayer has been in the center of this whole process. And I am thrilled for the overwhelming support for the progress of our schools from the citizens of Patterson.”
Superintendent Dr. Donald Aguillard thanked both voters and the City of Patterson for their cooperation in the planning and passage of the millage.
“I extend my sincere thanks to Mayor (Rodney) Grogan and the Patterson City Council for working closely with the school system to provide sufficient property at the site of the current PJHS to construct the new school. Please know that the planned improvements to both campuses will ensure improved educational facilities for the children of Patterson. Again, I offer my sincere thanks to the voters that supported our Ward 5 bond proposition,” Aguillard said.
Other election results in the parish included:
—Wax Lake East Drainage District – Proposition (Tax Renewal - 3.2 mill property tax for 10 years). Berwick and Bayou Vista voters passed the issue with 76.6 percent favorable votes. The 1,196 votes registered accounted for an 11.1 percent voter turnout for this proposition. Of them, 916 voted yes, while 280 voted no.
 —Gravity Sub-Drainage Dist. No. 1 of Gravity Drainage Dist. No. 2 – Proposition (Tax Renewal - 9.95 mills property tax for 10 years). The 7.6 percent of registered voters in Bayou Vista who voted in the election passed the proposition by a vote of 108 to 56 in favor.
—Recreation District No. 1 – Proposition (Millage Renewal - 3 mill property tax for 10 years). Only 2.8 percent of registered Siracusa and Amelia voters came out to voice their opinions on the millage. There were 18 votes in favor and five against.
—Alderman, Town of Baldwin - Special Election. Three percent of registered voters in Baldwin made their choices for their next alderman heard. Four votes separated the top two candidates — Mike J. Caesar Sr. with 204 and Margaret C. “Faye” Coleman with 200. They will face off in a run-off Nov. 16. The remaining two candidates, Herbert Bell and Clarence Colbert Sr., received 30 and 26 votes, respectively.

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