GONZALES — Ascension Parish school district officials are going on the road, touting an upcoming $120 million, 20-year property tax proposal for new school construction and renovation.
Voters will go to the polls April 9 to decide whether to extend an existing 15.08-mill property tax to raise revenue to build three new primary schools and a new middle school to relieve crowding.
The proposed tax revenue also would pay for the site planning of a future new high school and fund several renovation projects throughout the district, including major improvements to the Head Start building for 3-year-olds in Donaldsonville.
The proposed tax extension would mean the school district, which has been rated by the state education department as an A district for four years, could continue to “grow at that pace of excellence,” Assistant Superintendent Steve Westbrook told Gonzales City Council members on Monday.
“We exceed the state and national rates on four-year graduation rates and ACT averages,” he said.
“Whether it’s passed or not, people are still coming here, because this is a prime school district,” said Randy Watts, the human resources director for the school district.
Watts and other school officials asked City Council members to encourage their constituents to support the tax proposal to meet that growth with quality school buildings and classrooms.
Assistant Superintendent Denise Graves gave City Council members a brief overview of projects the school district has completed or begun with a previous property tax extension passed by voters in 2009.
Among those projects have been major renovations to Gonzales Primary, a new G.W. Carver Primary school, work on Freshman Academy buildings at three high schools and renovations at Prairieville Middle and Donaldsonville High.
“These are promises made, promises that have been kept,” Graves said. Graves will act as interim schools superintendent until a new one is hired to replace Patrice Pujol, who is retiring March 1.
City Councilman Terrance Irvin said that with industrial growth continuing to bring new residents to Ascension Parish, “in my opinion, we all should encourage the citizens of Gonzales to support this.”