An infusion of $30 million from an upcoming bond sale is expected to help fund major improvements for some Lafayette Parish public schools over the next year.
The School Board on July 11 agreed on a split vote to ask the state Bond Commission for approval to sell the bonds. That request goes before the commission at its Aug. 16 meeting, said Billy Guidry, school district chief financial officer. The matter then comes back before the school board for final approval.
On July 11, board members Greg Awbrey, Mark Allen Babineaux, Tommy Angelle and Rae Trahan voted against the action in favor of waiting for a more detailed list of how the money would be spent.
At the board meeting, a draft of potential projects was presented that included two projects to alleviate overcrowded schools in Youngsville, with $6 million tagged for renovations and construction at Green T. Lindon Elementary and another $2 million for a new classroom wing at Youngsville Middle.
The projects, if funded, should allay rumblings in the growing Lafayette suburb made by Youngsville Mayor Wilson Viator that if the School Board doesn’t tackle crowded classrooms in his city, he’d push forward his idea to create a separate Youngsville school district.
Viator appealed to the School Board at its July 11 meeting to improve his city’s schools. During his visit, he made no reference to a separate school district.
The School Board had hoped to take the politics out of how it matches available funding to school facility needs through the creation of its master plan, school board member Mark Allen Babineaux has said.
The master plan, presented to the School Board in 2010, listed $1.1 billion in facility needs and also prioritized projects in phases. An initial phase of the plan could have been funded by $561 million, but voters in October 2011 rejected a property tax bond proposal to fund it.
Routinely, board votes have been divided by a minority that rejects proposals deviating from the master plan’s set priorities while other members have said the master plan isn’t in their sights anymore because voters rejected funding it.
Last year, only five of the nine board members — Babineaux, Greg Awbrey, Hunter Beasley, Mark Cockerham and Rae Trahan — voted in favor of placing the property tax bond proposal on the October 2011 ballot. Board members Kermit Bouillion, Shelton Cobb and Tommy Angelle voted against the proposal and board member Tehmi Chassion abstained.
The most recent divided stance prompted Beasley to request formation of a committee to review the master plan and for the board to clarify its stance on how the planning document should be used in making facility decisions.
Beasley, Babineaux and board president Cobb will serve on the committee, which will also include representatives from the central office staff and the facilities master plan oversight committee.
How soon they’ll meet had not been released as of Wednesday;however, at Awbrey’s request, their review will be conducted in a workshop open to the public.
Meanwhile, the board will have more decisions to make related to the $30 million. In addition to the two Youngsville projects, proposed spending involves another $4 million to complete renovations at Northside High and $10 million for renovations and construction at Lafayette High. The remaining $8 million was recommended for new construction at the David Thibodaux STEM Academy.
Marsha Sills covers the Lafayette Parish school system. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.