DONALDSONVILLE — The Ascension Parish School Board agreed Tuesday to call a special election on May 9, 2020, asking voters to extend an existing property tax for 20 years to fund $140 million in school construction projects.

Among those projects would be a new high school in Prairieville. 

The board unanimously passed the resolution, without comment, for the election that is subject to the approval of the State Bond Commission.

In recent months, a committee of the board has discussed projects needed in the school district, in an ongoing effort to finalize a list of work to be done, if voters agree to extend the 15.08-mill property tax.

Voters last approved an extension of the property tax, which has been on the books for close to 30 years, in 2016.

That extension paid for $120 million in bonds used for, among other projects, three new primary schools — one of which has been built, with the other two under construction — and one new middle school, also under construction. 

Also on Tuesday, the board heard from Kate MacArthur, chief executive officer of the Ascension Economic Development Corp., on five requests for industrial tax exemptions from property taxes:

  • A possible new plant location in Geismar for existing manufacturer Air Liquide. The $139 million project would generate $9.6 million in property taxes and $75,000 in sales taxes for the School Board. The board would forfeit $7.5 million in property taxes over eight years, if the request is approved. Air Liquide made the request in 2017, under rules allowing 100% exemption from property taxes for five years and an 80% exemption for three years.
  • Phase 2 of the proposed Air Liquide project in Geismar would expand the location. The numbers are identical to those of Phase I.
  • A $100 million expansion at Westlake Vinyls' Geismar plant. The project would generate $7 million in property taxes and $500,000 in sales taxes for the School Board. The district would give up $5 million in property taxes over 10 years, if the exemption is approved. The request was filed in 2018, with rules calling for an 80% exemption from property taxes for five years, renewable for 80% exemption for five additional years.
  • A $130 million expansion of PCS Nitrogen Fertilizer's plant in Geismar, a project that would bring $9 million in property taxes and $1.5 million in sales taxes to the school district. The request, also filed in 2018, would mean $7 million in property taxes lost to the School Board over 10 years. 
  • A $276 million joint venture of Rubicon and Huntsman that would bring a shared expansion project to their Geismar locations. The project would generate $18.4 million in property taxes and $1.5 million in sales taxes to the school district. The School Board would forfeit $14.3 million in property taxes over 10 years, if the request is approved.

The School Board will vote on the requests at its next meeting, on Nov. 19.

MacArthur said the Ascension Parish Council and Sheriff Bobby Webre will be considering the requests later this month. 

Email Ellyn Couvillion at ecouvillion@theadvocate.com.