LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School Board considered two bond proposals Wednesday night to fund $561 million in facility improvements and weighed the option of asking voters to help pay for a universal preschool program.
In the first resolution, members were asked to consider a plan that included a 2-mill property tax for maintenance over the next 20 years and the issuance of $561 million in general obligation bonds. Initially, an estimated 23 mills is needed to pay the debt service on the bonds, but the millage could fluctuate over time based on market conditions, said the board’s bond attorney, Jerry Osborne.
The second resolution included the same proposed millages and terms as the first, but also included a 5.4-mill proposal to generate $8.1 million annually for a 20-year period to offer universal Pre-K4 classes.
The board did not make any decisions related to the propositions or the timing to bring the issue to voters. But members were presented with two options: Oct. 22 and Nov. 19. If the board opts for an Oct. 22 ballot, it must approve a proposition by June 29.
The proposals related to facility improvements are in line with recommendations made by a committee charged with the oversight of the school system’s facilities master plan.
The master plan identified more than $1 billion in needs. Planners devised a capital improvement plan that identified more than $590 million in priority projects.
The district has started addressing some identified repairs, which reduced the estimated cost to $561 million, Billy Guidry, chief financial officer, said.
Sarah Walker, chairwoman of the oversight committee, told the board the proposals are missing provisions recommended by the committee: a specification that the millages would be directed to the facilities master plan and wording that the committee remain in place to oversee implementation.
Osborne advised the board against adding the provisions because of a state law that limits propositions to 400 words.
If the board opted to include the preschool proposition, Osborne recommended the board make it a separate and third proposition because of the word limit.
The board considered other financial decisions at Wednesday’s meeting after learning it needed to re-examine its federal Title I budget to pay for a potential $320,000 in supplemental education services officials said may be needed at eight schools based on performance last year.
In its budget review process, the board shifted at least $800,000 in Title I funding from other programs to pay for a deficit in the district’s preschool program.
Federal programs director Phyllis Bartlett told board members that the district is awaiting “clean data” from the state on standardized test scores but based on the district’s own review of current data, the additional services may be needed at a total of six schools — two each at the high, middle and elementary school levels. She said she would prefer not to identify the schools until data confirms which schools will need the services.
Districts are required to provide supplemental education services such as tutoring to schools identified by the state in need of improvement based on school performance.
The board discussed eliminating the district’s academic auditor program which cost an estimated $428,000 to cover the expense, but as of 9 p.m. it had not reached a decision.
Also during the meeting, recent Acadiana High graduates and student athletes Ryan Bergeron and Katie Stefan were recognized as the state winners in the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association’s student scholar essay contest.
Stefan also won a $1,000 scholarship as Southern regional winner and is competing in the national contest, said James Simmons, district athletics director. Both students plan to attend the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in the fall.