GONZALES — Members of an Ascension Parish School Board committee are looking at putting a proposal on a ballot in 2020 to extend an existing property tax to build a new high school in Prairieville for what could be the fourth high school on the parish's east bank. 

A ballot measure, if one goes to voters, would seek extension of an existing 15.08 millage in order to repay bonds to be issued to build a new high school, estimated at $80 million to $90 million, as well as to renovate East Ascension High School and Gonzales Middle School, with a combined early estimated cost of $25 million. 

The 20-year property tax, which has been on the books for more than 30 years, has been renewed several times by voters, most recently in 2016 for the construction, among other projects, of three new primary schools and a new middle school.

At Tuesday's meeting of the School Board's Strategic Planning Committee, Chad Lynch, the school system director of planning and construction, provided project cost estimates to committee members, as well as the dates of upcoming elections and the timelines to get a measure on the ballot.

"It's time to start thinking about going to the public for a tax extension for a new high school," Committee Chairman John Murphy said. "The need is there."

Site planning for the proposed new high school on Parker Road in Prairieville is already underway, with preliminary funding for planning approved by voters in the 2016 extension of the 15.08 property tax.

In recent years, new freshman academy buildings have been built to assist with overcrowding at the three existing east bank high schools: East Ascension, Dutchtown and St. Amant.

In a school district that has historically gotten approximately 500 new students each school year, the student populations at the three east bank high schools have continued to grow, approaching or passing the 2,000 enrollment limit sought by the school district.

The official October 2018 enrollment figures for the school year that ended this past May were: East Ascension High, 1,827; St. Amant High, 2,064; and Dutchtown High, 2,368. 

The strategic planning committee members asked Lynch to prepare more information on project costs and timeline dates for ballot measures for a future meeting. 

In order to have a measure on the May 9 ballot, a decision would have to be made by the full school board in November or December, Lynch said. 

Email Ellyn Couvillion at ecouvillion@theadvocate.com.