The Lafayette Parish School Board on Wednesday locked in reduced rates for the firm that handles litigation involving bus accidents and worker compensation claims.

The board decided to accept a reduced rate for special counsel services from Borne, Wilkes, Rabalais & Smith. The firm typically handles liability claims for the School Board. The Lafayette firm offered to reduce its hourly rates by $15 as the board reviewed ways to cut its legal expenses. The rates are already below the maximum rates allowed by the Attorney General’s Office. The new rates for the school district now are capped at $160 per hour for attorneys with 10 years or more experience — which is below the state’s allowable $225 an hour for an attorney with the same level of experience. The firm set the following reduced rates: $135 an hour for attorneys with five years or more experience; $110 an hour for attorneys with three to five years of experience; and $85 per hour for attorneys with less than three years of experience. Paralegal services are $30 per hour and law clerk services are $10 per hour.

The board has discussed the need to lower its legal expenses and the executive committee has met a few times to review ways to cut costs. After the current board took office in January, it had to twice amend its legal services budget to cover more than $300,000 in additional expenses.

Board member Justin Centanni, chairman of the Finance Committee, commended the law firm for its “community-mindedness” for offering the lower rates.

“It’s my understanding that they’ve been billing us at these reduced rates for quite some time, but they wanted to make it official,” said Dawn Morris, the board’s vice president.

Looking ahead, the board at its Oct. 7 meeting will consider a potential tax proposal and an agreement with the city of Youngsville to lease property behind the city’s police station for a playground for neighboring Green T. Lindon Elementary.

Earlier in Wednesday’s meeting, the board recognized educators Anna Marquardt, of Carencro High School, who received a Fulbright Distinguished Teaching Award to conduct educational research in Finland; Erin Kizziar, librarian at Milton Elementary and Middle School; and Lisa Ranney, teacher of math, science, and engineering/robotics at Comeaux High School, for receiving technology grants from the Lafayette Education Foundation and the Pugh Family Foundation.

Kizziar and Ranney received a combined total of $18,750 as part of the LEF Technology Challenge that encouraged teachers to submit proposals on how they’d use a donated set of electronic tablets in the classroom.

Marquardt was one of 48 teachers in the country selected for the Fulbright award. The award will enable her to spend six months studying how the Finnish education system fosters writing creativity within students.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.