By Jessica Williams, The Lens staff writer |

Citing a drain in state funding, the Orleans Parish School Board likely will increase city property taxes by 4 percent to raise an additional $6.8 million for 2013.

Board officials say new education legislation, particularly Gov. Bobby’s Jindal’s statewide private-school voucher program that will use public money, is projected to lower the per-student amount each district gets from the state.

State education leaders dispute that, but local board members aren’t taking their chances.

The School Board has scheduled a public hearing for May 15 to discuss raising their tax rate to a level already approved by voters. The hearing is set for 4 p.m. at McDonogh No. 35.

The board’s tax rate is now 43.6 mills; it’s proposing a rate of 45.31 mills.

Here’s how it would affect homeowners:

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Late last year, the board stood alone among public taxing agencies in lowering its tax rate in light of increasing property values. State law requires public bodies collecting property tax to lower, or roll back, their rates when overall property values rise, ensuring that they take in the same amount of money. But after a public hearing, those agencies can vote to roll forward their tax rates and reap the increased money.

To the surprise and chagrin of charter schools, which also draw from that school tax money, the board chose not to roll forward the millage.

The Eastbank Collaborative of Charter Schools, a coalition of 12 mostly board-governed charters, asked the board to reverse its decision. Board members, including then-president Lourdes Moran, didn’t back down from their decision.

If the board passes the measure, which does not require further voter approval, it would take in an estimated total of $120 million. Taxpayers would see the increase on next year’s bill.

School system Chief Financial Officer Stan Smith highlighted the voucher program and other changes’ effects on the board’s finances at a Tuesday meeting.

“There is a lot of discussion that the scholarships would not be funded out of local revenues here, but when you look at what the state has in the MFP budget resolution, that’s certainly not the case,” Smith said in a presentation to the board.

The Minimum Foundation Program, or the MFP that Smith references, is the amount of per-student dollars doled out to each district. The voucher program, which finances a child’s private-school education with public dollars, is slated to pull cash from this fund next year.

Funding for special school districts, some charters, the Louisiana School for the Deaf and Visually Impaired, and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts also comes from this pool, meaning that they’ll be less cash on hand to dish to local districts. The district estimates that it’ll receive about $462 less per student because of the changes.

This runs contrary to the Jindal administration’s repeated claim that the scholarship program wouldn’t affect local money. Other local boards around the state join the School Board in the claim that, although the proposed program doesn’t directly take from local dollars, increasing the number of potential recipients without increasing the total does affect what gets paid out to local boards.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her...