Lafayette Parish school system’s staff is asking the board’s finance committee to consider supporting a $120 million bond sale and property tax increases to pay for school construction and improvements.
The finance committee meets at 5 p.m. Thursday to consider recommendations on both proposals. The meeting marks the first public discussion of proposed tax initiatives since the new board took office in January. The prior board dropped discussions of any potential new taxes following a 2011 fall defeat of a total 25-mill tax that would have paid for a $561 million bond package to build new schools, including a new Lafayette High, to make major renovations across the district and to create a fund for maintenance projects. Of the defeated 20-year, 25-mill property tax, 2 mills was set aside for maintenance and repairs, with the remaining 23 mills for school construction and renovations. Only 31 percent of voters supported the proposal, with opponents citing distrust of the then-board and the more than half-billion price tag.
A community committee reviewed potential financing options for facilities in 2013 and suggested the board consider a combination of a sales tax and property tax for the spring 2014 ballot. However, the board never publicly took up discussions about bringing a new tax to voters based on that committee’s recommendation.
During its meeting Thursday, the finance committee will receive information about how much millage increases could generate — ranging from a 12-mill increase to generate $314 million over 20 years or $389.9 million over 30 years, to a 31.5-mill increase that would generate $825.9 million over 20 years or $969.1 million over 30 years.
The board recently voted to sell $10 million in bonds to cover the costs of new buses and for expenses related to starting the design and planning work for a new high school on school district-owned property in Youngsville.
The board has the bonding capacity to issue $120 million in bonds and staff has suggested the sale as a way to fund construction and renovations. The full board previously approved a plan to fund the new high school construction and renovations of elementary schools that could help alleviate crowding in southern Lafayette Parish through the sale of up to $94 million in bonds, with the understanding the high school had funding priority and leftover money could be used for projects at other schools.
The finance committee is expected to make recommendations on the staff’s financing options. Its recommendations likely won’t be considered by the full board until Sept. 2 or Sept. 9. Superintendent Donald Aguillard said the board would need to make a decision by October on whether to bring a tax to voters in order to meet deadlines for notice of a spring election.
The full board meets the day before the committee meeting and will decide on whether to spend $25,000 to update its master facilities plan. If approved, CSRS Inc., the firm that devised the school system’s facilities plan in 2010, would update the document and provide the board a prioritized list of projects. The master plan update is part of the school system’s homework to prepare a list of financial needs.
A separate committee will soon start the work of identifying gaps in the school system’s technology infrastructure and will recommend an action plan and a way to pay for improvements. Aguillard has said he thinks new revenue is necessary to address aging and crowded facilities, as well as to ensure students have access to technology.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.