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Marcus Williams, foregruund, program director for CSRS/Tillage Program Management, points out features near a new stage area during a tour by some East Baton Rouge School Board members and administrators of reconstruction of Park Elementary on Feb. 14, 2019.

The two firms that have managed construction of Baton Rouge schools for years are waiving $559,000 in fees in exchange for a new five-year contract to manage a series of new school jobs through June 2014.

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board was only too happy to accept the savings last Thursday, voting unanimously for a new $6.3 million contract with CSRS/Tillage Program Management. The new contract will take effect July 1.

Marcus Williams, program director for the project, said giving up the $559,000, which covers a year’s worth of fees, was a gesture of good faith that recognizes the school system is trying to cut back on its spending.

“We want to continue our great partnership with the school district and to recognize their current financial budget situation,” Williams said. “We want to help them as much as we can.”

CSRS/Tillage will continue to oversee construction projects funded by part of a 1-cent sales tax. Voters renewed that tax in April 2018 for 10 more years. The newly approved program management contract covers half of that period and half of the $397 million in work that latest tax renewal authorized. The contract allows CSRS/Tillage to manage the reconstruction of six schools, new construction on two or three schools somewhere in south Baton Rouge as well as work on 14 more major renovations or additions.

CSRS, Tillage to fully manage EBR school construction

Baton Rouge-based CSRS has been managing construction connected with the 1-cent sales tax since it first went into effect in July 1999. For 15 years, CSRS partnered with out-of-state companies. But in 2014, CSRS and minority-owned Tillage, also based in Baton Rouge, jointly bought out Atlanta-based Garrard Program Management’s share. CSRS now owns 75 percent of the school system contract, while Tillage has 25 percent.

Under the new contract, CSRS/Tillage is set to receive about $105,000 a month in fees. That’s about $1,000 less a month than it received under its previous contract.

Prior to the arrival of Tillage, African-American board members were often at odds with CSRS and its outside partners. When the project was last renewed in February 2013 under CSRS/Garrard, the School Board barely mustered a 6-5 majority to keep the firms.

This time, CSRS and Tillage received nothing but praise.

In a June 6 debate, board member Dadrius Lanus, who is black, called upon Williams, who is also black. 

“Mr. Williams, can I ask you a question?” asked Lanus, who in 2018, before he was elected, urged voters to reject the part of the 1-cent sales tax that funds school construction.

Williams warily walked up to the microphone and waited.

“I just want to thank you for all the services you provide to the East Baton Rouge Parish schools and all the years of service you have given us in the past,” Lanus said.

Other board members also offered praise for CSRS/Tillage and its willingness to waive some of its fees.

“It allows us to do a little more, to stretch the dollars a little more,” said board member Connie Bernard. “I know it took some sacrifice on the part of the company and I appreciate that.”

“You continue to provide stellar service for our district and I really appreciate that,” added board member Jill Dyason.

Email Charles Lussier at and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.