April 25, 2017 09:48 AM

Bill would enable LPSS to use sales tax revenue to access USDA school funding.

The Louisiana Senate is scheduled to consider Sen. Page Cortez's SB237 Tuesday, and the cost and timing of a new elementary school in Broussard could ride on it.

Photo by Robin May

Cortez's bill would extend the length of time sales tax revenue bonds sold by the Lafayette Parish Public School System could cover. Currently, sales tax revenue can be bonded for up to 25 years. Cortez's bill would extend the limit to 40 years.

LPPSS Chief Financial Officer Billy Guidry tells The Independent that Cortez introduced the bill at the school system's request so that it could bond sales tax revenue to access USDA funding to construct a new elementary school in Broussard.

"USDA loans are 40-year loans," Guidry explains. "We are using property tax bonds to build the new high school in Youngsville, but we hope to use sales tax bonds to pay for a new elementary school in Broussard. Sales tax bonds are currently limited to 25 years. If we can't get the length time covered by sales tax bonds extended from 25 to 40 years, it could cost us more to build the school for Broussard."

Guidry says the LPPSS hopes to have financing for the project in place by the the first of the year. He explains that the attraction of USDA money is lower interest rates.

"If we can't get the sales tax bond length extended, then we can't borrow from USDA to fund the project," Guidry said. "We would then be forced to go onto the open market where it could cost us as much as an extra percent to borrow."

Guidry says Cortez's bill is not tied to Saturday's sales tax vote, but specifically to the Broussard school project.

Guidry says LPPSS hopes to have the new Broussard elementary school open in time for the start of school in August 2019.

The Independent contacted Sen. Cortez about the bill but he had not responded at press time.

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