ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution to use the Louisiana State Mineral and Energy Board to execute a mineral lease on a nearly 100-acre property owned jointly by the West and East Feliciana school districts.
The resolution sets a minimum price for the lease of $900 per acre and 20 percent of the royalties.
The undeveloped property near Peterson Road in the northern part of West Feliciana Parish is Section 16 land that the federal government set aside for schools, Superintendent Hollis Milton said.
By federal law, school districts cannot sell the land, but they may build on or lease it.
The East Feliciana School Board would also have to vote to approve the resolution for it to go forward and that board is expected to take up the issue at its March 6 meeting.
The move, which would not cost the boards any money, was prompted by a letter sent by Border Exploration of Lafayette outlining a mineral lease offer for the land of $900 per acre per year and 20 percent royalties for three years with a possible year-to-year renewal after that.
The company has since rescinded the offer, Milton said.
“That’s not uncommon, but the worst case scenario is that we don’t get a bite now, but we are ready in case another company approaches us later,” he said. “This process just gets the ball rolling so we can move at a faster rate if someone gives us an offer we like.”
Border Exploration could bring the project back on line or another company could make an offer, Milton said.
In other business, the board transferred $50,000 from the general fund to the lunch fund to meet costs not yet covered by funds from the federal Community Eligibility Program.
West Feliciana Parish Schools joined the program, which offers free lunch to all students, this school year.
In order to participate, schools must have at least 40 percent of students qualifying for free lunch under income eligibility guidelines.
West Feliciana should be able to make up at least most of the funds as soon as the federal grant money comes in.
“They say we should come out ahead. We’ll see if that happens,” Milton said.
“The difference is that when the kids were paying, we got the money faster,” Misty Cook, school finance director, said.
Asked whether she liked the program, school food services director Pat Gilmore was enthusiastic. “I don’t have to give kids alternate meals, which is embarrassing (to them.) I can feed everybody and more kids are eating,” she said.
At the end of the meeting, Milton reminded board members to encourage people to vote for the school district tax renewals in the March 24 special election.
The proposals involve renewals of two 10-year property taxes, one for 14.75 mills and the other for 11 mills.
“If they don’t pass, we would have to cut 25 percent of our budget. There is no way we could cut 25 percent of our budget and be the district we are and have the accolades we do,” Milton said.
He stressed that the possible financial boost from the Entergy reallocation would only be available to the schools if those property tax renewals pass.
The taxes from Entergy’s nuclear plant in St. Francisville had previously been divided among the 60 parishes where Entergy has customers, but a recent decision by the Louisiana Tax Commission reroutes all taxes from the St. Francisville plant to West Feliciana Parish.
West Feliciana Schools could reap $2.5 million in extra revenue beginning in 2019, but only if the renewals pass, Milton said.
The board also recognized district teachers of the year for 2017-18: Megan Viguerie, Bains Lower Elementary; Alvera McMillan, West Feliciana Middle School; and Amy Geiger Wilson, West Feliciana High School.