DONALDSONVILLE — Ascension Parish School Board members heard on Tuesday about possibly paying for a new high school in the future with municipal bonds.
The high school that would be built on Parker Road in the Prairieville area is viewed as a way to address approaching overcrowding at the three east bank high schools.
While new bond monies of $120 million, made possible when voters renewed a property tax last month, include $2 million for the site planning of the new school, funding is not yet in place for its actual construction.
“If we don’t get something started pretty quickly, it’s going to be 2022 before a kid steps in the high school,” board member Taft Kleinpeter said at Tuesday’s meeting of the board’s Strategic Planning Committee.
One option mentioned in the past for construction of the new school has been to bring a new bond proposal before voters in future years.
Board members heard about another option, municipal bonds, on Tuesday from a representative of Memphis-based Alluvion Securities, invited to make a presentation by committee chair Shawn Sevario.
“They’re used by many parishes, school boards, police juries and municipalities,” said Alluvion attorney David Lensing.
The bonds would be issued by the Louisiana Community Development Authority, created by the state Legislature in 1991, on behalf of the School Board, and would be paid back with School Board funds.
Lensing said that, using a cost estimate of $61 million for the new high school, the board’s payments would run $3 million a year, with 30-year financing, given current low interest rates of 2 percent to 3 percent.
The board asked Diane Allison, director of business services for the school district, for her thoughts on the proposal.
“Before you go into more debt, consider we have $155 million in outstanding bonds” from past bond issues, and “voters just approved $120 million on top of what we had,” Allison said.
Payments on the municipal bonds wouldn’t come from property taxes but from sales tax revenues in the School Board’s general fund, she said.
“We have to watch the sales tax. A lot of that is dedicated. It’s a lot to think about,” Allison said, adding that any type of borrowing has to be approved by the Louisiana Bond Commission.
The board will take up the issue of financing possibilities again at its June 7 meeting, when Allison reports on all the financing options available to build the new high school.