The Lafayette Parish School Board’s Finance Committee supported seeking up to $120 million in bonded debt for school construction, but the committee decided it needs more time to consider any property tax increase initiatives.
The committee met Thursday to consider staff recommendations to sell $120 million in bonds and to raise property taxes to pay for school construction across the parish.
The school system’s chief financial officer, Billy Guidry, proposed the bonds be sold incrementally: $34 million in 2016, another $34 million in 2017 and $45 million later in 2017.
“The bond issuances are split because we don’t need the full $120 million on the front end,” Guidry said. “We’ll have multiple projects going on starting and finishing at different times.”
A new high school is planned for board-owned property in the Youngsville area, and the full board previously approved financing its construction, as well as additional classroom wings at three other schools: Drexel Elementary, Plantation Elementary and Milton Elementary/Middle, with a $94 million bond sale. However, Guidry said it’s now possible the board could sell up to $120 million in bonds without any adverse impact to the budget.
With the additional bond revenue, staff proposed building a new elementary school for the Broussard area to replace Katharine Drexel Elementary. The remaining funds would be split between construction of additional classrooms at Plantation Elementary and Milton Elementary/Middle.
Guidry proposed that the board also consider property tax increases and presented the board several options ranging from 12 mills to 31.5 mills with revenues generated ranging from $314 million to nearly $970 million.
Guidry said 1 mill generates about $1.8 million a year.
Even with the bond sale, the district’s remaining facility needs are estimated at about $700 million, Guidry told the Finance Committee.
“We need to determine if the community is interested in assisting the school district in addressing the $700 million in projects we would not be able to address in spite of our significant efforts,” Guidry said.
Additional revenue is needed not only for additional construction, but also for maintenance and for technology enhancements, he said.
The committee’s recommendation on the $120 million bond sale could go before the full board at either its Sept. 2 or Sept. 9 meetings.
Finance Committee Chairman Justin Centanni asked Guidry about a timeline to get a tax proposition on the ballot. Guidry said the board would need to make a decision in the next month and a half to get on the April ballot. Waiting until a fall 2016 election means the tax would not be collected until the following year, he said, but an April election would enable the board to begin assessing the tax in the same calendar year, if voters agree.
In 2011, a tax proposition for a total of 25 mills was rejected by nearly 70 percent of voters.
Committee members agreed that a comprehensive projects plan should be drafted and presented to the public about how the money would be spent before asking voters for their money.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.