School Board now eyeing two new taxes

by Heather Miller

Voters could be asked to head to the polls in the fall and pony up the approval of two new property taxes.

The Lafayette Parish School Board hasn't quite decided yet how to ask voters to approve a new property tax this fall for school maintenance and its facilities master plan, and now board members may be asking for another property tax on the same ballot to fund a universal Pre-K program.

According to The Advocate, Wednesday's board meeting ended with no action and no date set for the property tax vote, but the board has two propositions its considering: One would place a 2-mill property tax on the ballot to fund 20 years of school maintenance. The other would ask for the same millage for school maintenance, but also include an additional 5.4 mills that would raise $8.1 million a year for 20 years and fund a districtwide Pre-K4 program:

The board did not make any decisions related to the propositions or the timing to bring the issue to voters. But members were presented with two options: Oct. 22 and Nov. 19. If the board opts for an Oct. 22 ballot, it must approve a proposition by June 29.

The new property tax, which could be a near impossible sell for voters with a no new tax sentiment and a board that in the past used maintenance money to fund everything except maintenance, would pay for the first phase of a $1.1 billion facilities master plan adopted by the board last year. As part of the facilities master plan, the board created a Citizen Oversight Committee make suggestions on how to fund the massive facilities repair project.

The oversight committee was clear in its request that the tax verbiage specifically direct the tax money to the master plan and facilities maintenance. Oversight committee members also want to ensure they are still a part of the process when its time to implement said plan. But as committee chairwoman Sarah Walker pointed out Wednesday night, the propositions up for discussion leave out those two key components.

The board's bond attorney Jerry Osborne says the prop on the ballot would be too wordy if it includes a clause that bars any new tax revenue from being funneled elsewhere in the system. After all, such provision would exceed the 400-word limit for the ballot.

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