The sales tax supplement checks issued to classroom teachers and other employees at Ouachita Parish Schools in June and December of each year could decrease in the upcoming fiscal year, school system officials say.

That would be the case because of potential losses from the COVID-19 outbreak and associated stay-at-home order, according to Superintendent Don Coker and Regina Mekus, the school system’s business director.

Ouachita Parish Schools collects a 2-percent sales tax throughout the parish. Revenues from one half-cent pay for school system operations while revenues from one-and-a-half cents are dedicated to cover salaries.

The Ouachita Citizen reached out to Coker last week in light of projections by the state Legislative Auditor’s Office that the Ouachita Parish School Board could lose $2.1 million to $7.8 million in sales tax and property tax revenues. The lost revenue projections were detailed in the Legislative Auditor’s “Effect of COVID-19 on Local Government Revenues” report released on May 7.

“With the majority of sales tax collections dedicated to supporting salaries, the immediate concern is the possible decrease in the sales tax supplement checks distributed to teachers and other School Board employees in June and December of each year,” said Mekus.

“Given that the majority of collections for the year were made prior to the Stay At Home Order, this will likely have a greater effect in the upcoming year.”

Mekus said the School Board would evaluate the budget to offset any changes in anticipated tax revenues.

Beyond sales taxes, the School Board also relies on state funding through the Minimum Foundation Program, a complicated formula that pays the School Board a certain amount to educate each student. The School Board’s MFP revenues enabled the school system to continue its daily operaations.

“Payroll distributions for our employees have continued through this time as we adjusted to meet the needs of our students and complete the school year,” Mekus said.

Mekus pointed out that the School Board was awarded a grant to offset the cost of providing distance learning to its students, though that grant did not cover the losses in the School Board’s operating budget.

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