by Danielle Coston for The New Orleans Tribune
At the end of April Orleans Parish voters will decide whether they want to increase access to Early Childhood Education for New Orleans’ youngest residents with a special millage will be used if the voters of Orleans Parish approve the tax proposal.
The measure will be on the ballot on April 30, when voters will decide whether to greenlight a new 5-mill property tax dedicated to programs and capital investments that provide childcare and educational opportunities for children who have not yet entered kindergarten.
If approved, the tax would begin in 2023 and expire in 20 years, at the end of 2042. The City estimates gross revenue of $21.3 million from the tax in its first year.
If the tax measure passes, homeowners will pay an additional $50 annually on each $100,000 of property value above the $75,000 homestead exemption
Ahead of the election, the New Orleans City Council passed two measures designed to guide the use of revenue generated by the proposed millage.
On April 7, the Council approved an ordinance that authorizes a cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) between the City, Agenda for Children, and the Orleans Parish School Board to manage the revenue from the early childhood education millage and ensure that it is solely used to increase access to early childhood education programs for young children across New Orleans.
The agreement directs the revenue to City Seats, a City-funded program established in 2018 to provide free early childhood education for economically disadvantaged children from infancy to 3 years old, and to initiatives that would expand the capacity and quality of local early learning centers and improve enrollment processes.
Since 2018, funding for the program has grown from $750,000 to ensure that 50 students from qualified families were able to enroll in ECE programs to $3 million for 200 early childhood education seats, according to the Bureau of Governmental Affairs.
The tax proposal plan projects expanding the number of City-funded seats in early childhood programs across New Orleans to 1,000 by 2024.
Other annual expenditures planned for the projected revenue of the ECE tax include funding for teacher professional development and child and family support services, expansion of early learning center capacity.
An additional motion, which was also passed by the Council on April 7, directs the Office of Youth and Families to submit all reports on the early childhood education millage proposition to the Council and present the program’s status on a quarterly basis for the first five years of collection.