Voters in St. John the Baptist Parish easily approved three propositions on Saturday’s ballot, including a bond issue that will raise as much as $10.4 million to help rebuild the flood-damaged Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School in LaPlace.
Propositions to renew a 4.33-mill property tax for schools maintenance and to rededicate the proceeds of an existing sales tax for the school district also cruised through.
None of the three items will result in a tax increase, school officials said.
The bond issue, which passed 1,402 to 756, or with 65 percent of the vote, will be paid for from an existing 10-mill property tax. The money, to be paid back within 20 years, is intended to cover an expected gap between the available federal disaster money and the actual cost of rebuilding the shuttered school.
After a year marked by little progress toward reopening the parish’s two closed campuses, the St. John School Board voted in September to participate in a federal pilot program to expedite repairs on Lake Pontchartrain Elementary and East St. John High School in Reserve. Officials are considering a full or partial rebuild of the elementary school, while the high school is expected to be a renovation project.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency pilot program is intended to help communities recover more quickly after disasters and emergencies. The district still needs FEMA to approve its application before it can get a final verdict on how much the parish will receive for the schools, and an earlier deadline for FEMA to rule was delayed from February until May 20.
St. John officials hope to have East St. John High reopened by next year and to have the elementary school rebuilt or renovated by 2017.
By a 2-to-1 margin — 1,437 votes to 714 — St. John residents also agreed to renew an existing 4.33-mill property tax for the schools for another 10 years. The almost $2 million generated annually from the millage is used to operate and maintain school buildings. The tax costs the owner of a $200,000 house with a homestead exemption about $50 a year.
A third proposition on the ballot, to rededicate the proceeds from a .25 percent sales tax, also passed by a sizable margin. The sales tax, first authorized in 2000, currently brings in $2.4 million a year, enough to provide up to $2,000 per year to every teacher. The proposition, which passed 1,272 to 880, or with 59 percent of the vote, will allow the money to go to all school employees, not just teachers.
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