The Lafayette Parish School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to ask voters to increase school property taxes by 16 mills for school construction and maintenance and for educational programs.
The 16 mills will be placed on the ballot as two separate propositions. The first: 11.5 mills for 30 years to fund up to $380 million in school construction and other projects through the sale of general obligation bonds.
The second proposition includes a 2.5-mill, 10-year property tax to generate about $5.2 million annually for a maintenance and school improvement fund and a 10-year, 2-mill property tax to generate nearly $4.2 million annually for initiatives such as school resource officers, early childhood education, career and technical education and technology upgrades.
A list of projects that would be funded by the 11.5 mills has been proposed but will be finalized in the coming weeks, board members have said.
The propositions are a result of community involvement in the master facilities plan developed in 2010 and recently updated by planners, said board member Justin Centanni. The tax proposal is also a reflection of lessons learned from the last tax proposal, which was defeated in 2011, he said. People who voted against that property tax, which would have funded about $560 million in projects, said it was too big and too expensive, Centanni said.
“This plan and these propositions are realistic,” Centanni said. “It’s targeted. It’s responsible. Every penny is dedicated to a specific purpose.”
The additional 16 mills would cost a taxpayer with a home valued at $175,000 an additional $13.33 a month or $160 a year. Chief Financial Officer Billy Guidry said in an earlier interview that the average home value for the parish is just under $169,000 with the millage increase adding less than $13 a month and less than $150 a year to a property tax bill.
In another matter Wednesday, the board voted after more than an hour of discussion to defer a decision on which company to contract with to enforce bus stop rules and install bus safety cameras.
Representatives with RedFlex Student Guardian and Force Multiplier Solutions pitched proposals to install cameras to provide exterior and interior monitoring of bus activity and also catch drivers who run bus stop signs. Both representatives said the camera installations and enforcement monitoring would not cost the board anything, but would be recouped through fines. RedFlex offered a set rate for its services per violation. One option would set the rate at $195 per violation while another option tiered the rate, starting at $225 per paid fine in the first year and decreasing to $170 per year in the final and fourth year of the contract with an option to extend in two-year increments.
Force Multiplier suggested it receive 50 percent of the fine amount until it recovers its costs, which representative Casey Ponder estimated would be about $2 million. After costs were recovered, the school board would then keep 60 percent of the fine collected. Ponder, however, wasn’t able to provide the board a set fine amount. Ponder said the fines are varied in other parishes where it provides enforcement services — $400 in Jefferson Parish and $300 in East Baton Rouge Parish.
During the Wednesday meeting, staff also announced the first meeting of the new high school committee will be held at 5 p.m. Monday. An agenda for the meeting is expected to be released Friday. The committee includes community members nominated by the board who will guide decisions on the school’s name, its colors and mascot.
District planning administrator Sandra Billeaudeau said at least eight suggested names for the high school have already been submitted. The proposals range from namesakes that honor community members or point to the school’s locale, such as Youngsville High, Caneview High or Oil City High. Billeaudeau said more suggestions will be considered and may be submitted to the school system.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.