School Board: ‘Sales Tax referendum could cost Concordia Parish jobs, revenue’

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, September 14, 2021

VIDALIA, La. — An upcoming referendum designed to simplify how sales tax dollars are collected throughout the state could cost jobs and revenue for the Concordia Parish School Board, members said last week.

“If this referendum passes, that is going to be a loss of local jobs as well as local revenue,” Concordia Parish School Board member Derrick Carsen said in a meeting Thursday.

The proposed Constitutional Amendment would take the responsibility of collecting sales taxes from parish officials and give that responsibility to a state commission.

In Louisiana, local government officials, such as school boards and police juries, collect sales taxes from business owners which are charged to individuals when they make purchases.

Supporters of the amendment say Louisiana is one of three states that has localized sales tax collections and argue that it complicates the process of paying taxes for business owners and also the collection of sales taxes from online purchases.

The amendment vote was rescheduled from October to Nov. 13 because of the impact of Hurricane Ida in south Louisiana.

The school board’s primary concern with the new legislation is that it takes the authority to collect sales taxes away from the school board and other local officials, school board financial advisor Tom O’Neal said.

A division of the school board in Concordia Parish, which employs eight people including O’Neal as part-time administrator, collects sales taxes for seven other parishes.

Those jobs “may be in jeopardy if the state takes over,” O’Neal said.

Moreover, Concordia Parish receives a commission from the sales tax collected for other parishes. Last fiscal period, this commission generated approximately $895,000 of revenue for the parish after overhead expenses, O’Neal said, adding the rate of commission varies from parish to parish.

“That money goes into a fund that actually funds supplements for teachers. (With this legislation) we’re jeopardizing some issues that we’d rather not if we have a choice,” O’Neal said.

He added that the state officials are pushing online tax payments and collections when, “a good lion’s share of taxes are collected online already,” he said.

O’Neal said sales taxes collected during last fiscal cycle made up more than $6 million of the school board’s revenue, which overall was approximately $38 million.

This shouldn’t change with the amendment, however, O’Neal said he is concerned that “down the road, it might take away (the parish’s) ability to determine what our tax rates are.”

“All we can do is ask people to vote against it,” he said.