The Lafayette Parish School Board took a step Wednesday to place a property tax renewal on a fall ballot.
The board voted to give public notice that it will meet on Sept. 2 to consider approving a resolution that calls for its existing 7.27-mill property tax to go before voters on the Nov. 21 ballot.
Board members Elroy Broussard, Justin Centanni, Britt Latiolais, Tommy Angelle and Jeremy Hidalgo attended the meeting and voted in favor of publishing the public notice. Board members Dawn Morris, Erick Knezek, Mary Morrison and Tehmi Chassion were absent from Wednesday’s special meeting.
The 7.27-mill property tax comes up for renewal every 10 years and has been on the rolls for more than 40 years. The tax generates $13 million annually and covers operational expenses, such as maintenance, utilities, salaries and benefits.
Following the special meeting, the board’s finance committee met to consider amending the budget to cover the expense of updating the school system’s facilities master plan. The plan was completed in late 2010 at a cost of $900,000.
The firm CSRS Inc., of Baton Rouge, developed the master plan in 2010 and submitted a $25,000 proposal to update it and create a priority list of projects and estimated costs. Centanni, the finance committee chairman, questioned the cost of the update as sales tax collections appear to be down, affecting the budget.
“Do you have $25,000 to cut from the budget,” Centanni asked Kyle Bordelon, the school system’s facilities planning director.
Bordelon said he could review the project list within the capital improvement fund to try to identify $25,000.
The committee agreed to recommend that the board update the list with the help of CSRS despite concerns about duplicated work. The board recently hired a demographer to help identify where schools may need to be expanded. The board also recently agreed to set aside at least $10,000 to hire an architect for a feasibility study to possibly replace Lafayette High.
Superintendent Donald Aguillard said updating the project list — done by professionals — is needed so the school system knows where its immediate needs are and to also present priority projects to the public if the board decides to seek a tax.
Aguillard has not shied away from tax talks, saying the board will need to consider new revenue to address facility needs. At a recent public forum with the Acadiana Press Club, Aguillard said a tax proposal could go to voters as early as the spring if the board made decisions in the coming months about a spring election.
Aguillard told the committee that CSRS has indicated it can perform the review and present an update by the first board meeting in October.
The board recently voted to sell $10 million in bonds to buy buses and to get the initial legwork for the planning of a new high school in southern Lafayette Parish off the ground. The board plans to build a high school on property it owns in Youngsville. In June, the board approved funding the high school construction and funding construction to expand at least three other schools through a $94 million bond sale. The extent of the expansion plans will depend upon how much money is left over after the first phase of construction for the high school.
The finance committee also heard a presentation on risk management services available from the international firm Arthur J. Gallagher & Company.
A local representative of the company, Nancy Sylvester, discussed the types of coverage that Gallagher provides, including plans for disaster management and violent and malicious acts.
Centanni, committee chairman, said the presentation was scheduled weeks ago, and is unintentionally timely given last week’s movie theater shootings. Sylvester said Lafayette Consolidated Government is her company’s client and detailed the support the company has provided through Disaster Management International, a disaster response company that has helped the city with its response to the tragedy and also set up a family information center.
Sylvester said she believes Lafayette is the first city to set up a counseling support center for the entire community and not just victims and their families.
The center is open in the old Whitney bank building at the corner of Lee Avenue and Jefferson Street downtown from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The services are provided at no charge and no appointment is necessary.
The company counts among its other clients the school boards in Calcasieu, Caddo, St. Tammany, Jefferson Davis, Vermilion and Bossier parishes.
No recommendations were made by the committee on the matter.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.