AMITE — Less than a week after the state approved a $1 million mineral lease for Tangipahoa Parish school system lands, School Board members are already asking for use of the funds.
Board member Gail Pittman-McDaniel lodged the first request Tuesday night, asking for at least a portion of the newly pocketed $1 million to be applied toward the Sumner school district’s outstanding bond debt.
The Sumner bonding district has nine years and a little more than $2 million in principal and interest remaining on its school improvement debt, which residents are paying down with a 13-mill property tax, Chief Financial Officer Bret Schnadelbach said.
But system officials aren’t sure whether revenues derived from the 16th Section mineral lease, which the Louisiana Mineral and Energy Board approved Friday, can be used to benefit a single district, rather than the parish school system as a whole.
Section 16 lands are 640-acre tracts owned by the state and held in trust for the benefit of public education. Each parish’s Section 16 lands are managed by the parish school board, which receives any revenues gained from timber sales or mineral leases on those lands.
Schnadelbach said a court ruling two decades ago suggests that those revenues must be used for the benefit of all the parish’s schools.
McDaniel said she was asking only for Sumner’s portion of the mineral lease revenues to be applied to Sumner’s bond debt.
Superintendent Mark Kolwe said his staff and the board’s attorney would have to research whether that would be a legal use of the funds.
In other business, the School Board approved five attorneys to serve in the district’s pool of disciplinary hearing officers.
Previously, the superintendent, principal and employees would choose one representative each to serve on a panel to hear the cases. That job now will fall to the hearing officers, whose decisions can be appealed to the 21st Judicial District Court.
Four of the attorneys selected to serve in Tangipahoa’s arbitrator pool are members of Perry Dampf Dispute Solutions, a Baton Rouge-based mediation and arbitration company: Patrick Briney, William Helm, Brian Homza and Margaret “Peggy” Landry.
The fifth arbitrator, David Pittman, is an associate with the St. Tammany Parish law firm of Harry Pastuszek Jr., which serves as legal counsel for that parish’s school board. Pastuszek has recently come under scrutiny for his employment arrangement with District Attorney Walter Reed.
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