LUTCHER — Sworn into office Tuesday, four recently elected members of the St. James Parish School Board jumped right into school business by approving a resolution authorizing a spring election to finance the construction of the new St. James High School complex and other school improvement projects.
Voters will decide May 2 whether to issue $56 million in general obligation bonds, a proposed ballot proposition that will not raise taxes, bond attorney Hugh Martin said during Tuesday’s School Board meeting.
Instead, the bonds will be repaid from property taxes already levied for school system debt at the current rate of 10 mills, St. James Superintendent Alonzo Luce said.
Martin said the school district has reduced its current debt by retiring old bonds while the parish’s growth in assessed value has brought in extra funds.
The bonds would cover the cost of the construction of the new St. James High School in Vacherie and would finance school improvements throughout the parish, including replacing decades-old heating and cooling units and upgrading electrical systems.
School officials are planning to move St. James High School from the heavily industrialized location on the west bank of the parish to a 54-acre tract of land near La. 20 and La. 3127.
A parish master plan has indicated more corporations will move to the already industrialized area and drive homeowners to other residential areas.
The School Board has a letter of intent from Yuhuang Chemical, a subsidiary of China-based Shandong Yuhuang Chemical Co. Ltd., to purchase the 46-acre property on which the school sits. Yuhuang Chemical plans to construct a $1.85 billion ethanol plant adjacent to the school site.
Luce has said the school is “completely boxed in” by industry with the school’s rear property line backed by the Union Pacific Railway, Yuhuang Chemical’s soon-to-be-constructed ethanol plant on one side of the school and property available for purchase on the other side of the school.
New board members Sue Beier, Tyler Jasmin, Dianne Spencer and Raymond Gros, along with veteran board members George Nassar Jr., Ken Foret and Diana Cantillo unanimously approved the resolution authorizing the bond proposition.
State 5th Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Jude G. Gravois administered the oath of office for the board members.