Pat Brister St. Tammany Parish President (2).JPG

St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister

St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister said Tuesday that she wants to take advantage of an improved bond rating and "bond out" the proceeds of the parish's 2-cent sales tax to finance $30 million in road projects.

The proposal will be introduced at the Parish Council meeting Thursday and will come up for a council vote April 4.

Brister said that funds from the bonds could be in hand by the end of May. The work would be done over the next three years.

Councilman Steve Stefancik said the goal is to get major improvements done now. "We don't have to wait years to get it done," he said. 

St. Tammany issued $50 million in bonds in 2006 to pay for road projects across the parish.

This would be the second time the parish has borrowed money to be repaid by sales tax revenue since it was authorized to do so in 2005, when the sales tax was renewed.

The 2-cent sales tax, which is for road and drainage infrastructure, expires in 2031.

The projects to be financed by the bonds have not been chosen, but Brister said the administration will be looking for the best results for the largest number of people.

"Capacity is what really matters to us," she said.

The parish will draw on its five-year capital improvement plan, which is updated annually, and its 50-year major streets plan, to select the projects, she said.

Brister said she does not plan to use the entire amount for one big project or as matching money because St. Tammany has too many needs parishwide.

The parish will still have revenue from the sales tax to maintain and repair roads, even with the additional cost of paying debt service on the bonds, she said.

"The investment will have impact at many levels. One of those is that it will keep our economy strong and help with economic development. It will spur job growth. When people can move around the parish easier, it's better for jobs and companies," Brister said.

The decision to bond out the tax money gives the parish the opportunity to do bigger projects now, she said.

"We can't stand still. Growth is coming, and we have to manage the growth," she said.

The timing is good because of a recent improvement in the parish's bond rating, which is now AA+, she added.

"We are told by our financial advisers that we're one of only four or five parishes with a rating that high," she said.

Brister, who is running for a third term, said that traffic capacity is something that her staff talks about every day. "It's my No. 1 priority and will continue to be for the next four years, if I am re-elected," she said.

She faces at least one challenger, Covington Mayor Mike Cooper, in the Oct. 12 election.

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.