The Jefferson Parish School Board decided Tuesday night to ask voters April 9 to approve a bond issue and property tax increase that would finance $200 million in new and renovated school buildings.
If voters agree, they can expect to be charged up to 3 mills in additional property tax for a maximum of about 20 years. The School Board now levies 22.91 mills.
Such an increase would amount to $37.50 per year for the owner of a $200,000 home with a homestead exemption. For the owner of a $150,000 home, it would be $22.50.
Proponents of the bond issue and tax increase contend it will let Jefferson’s public school system replace outdated, overcrowded schools and set up its 50,000 or so students for a brighter future.
Yet some of the board members who supported submitting the plan to the voters warned they’d move to pull the initiative from public consideration if district officials try to change the list of planned projects in ways they don’t like.
Although a preliminary list was published in September calling for two new schools and four revamped ones, that list was subject to change. School officials promised Tuesday to finalize the list by the time of the board’s February meeting, giving voters plenty of time to see what their tax money would finance.
Board members Mark Morgan, Marion Bonura, Melinda Bourgeois, Ray St. Pierre, Ricky Johnson and Sandy Denapolis-Bosarge all supported putting the proposal on this spring’s ballot. Larry Dale voted no. Melinda Doucet abstained. Cedric Floyd was absent.
Morgan said the school district would become the “envy of the nation” if the plan is approved by voters and then carried out properly.
Dale said he agrees the school system’s buildings need an upgrade, but he said the plan lacked “concrete assurances” that projects would not be improperly prioritized due to “political shenanigans.”
Tuesday was not the first time the School Board considered seeking voter approval for a bond issue and property tax increase to finance new buildings.
When it did so in the fall, the plan was shelved in the face of opposition from board members who said they had not been given enough time to review the preliminary list of projects.
Officials said they have since fine-tuned the list with input from all stakeholders.