LPSS readies for districtwide open house

by Heather Miller

Less than two weeks before voters decide whether to invest in unprecedented school repairs and new construction, the Lafayette Parish School System is opening all schools in the district from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday night for an inside look at the state of the district's learning facilities.

Lafayette Parish voters have a chance to see for themselves Monday night what's at the heart of a Lafayette Parish School Board property tax proposal going before voters Oct. 22.

With less than two weeks until voters cast their vote for or against a 25-mill property tax that would fund more than half a billion dollars of critical school repairs, new construction and maintenance, the school system is opening every school in the district from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday to offer tours and information about the facilities master plan.

The master plan, finalized by the School Board in 2010, calls for the replacement of seven schools: Northside and Lafayette high schools, L.J. Alleman Middle School, Carencro Heights, Green T. Lindon, Katharine Drexel and J.W. Faulk elementary schools. It also outlines new additions to several other schools, as well as maintenance upgrades districtwide.

And as election day inches closer, advocates on both sides of the tax prop can be heard loud and clear through websites, radio spots and other mediums.

Invest in our Children's Future, a political action committee formed by a grassroots education group, has a website laying out its case for the new tax, which includes a 10-minute League of Women Voters video showing the condition of schools.

The Tea Party of Lafayette acknowledges on its website that the proposal would equate to a roughly 29 percent tax increase. But in a radio spot that aired on KPEL 96.5 Monday morning, TPL Lafayette coordinator Joyce Linde told listeners that a yes vote would "almost double" what residents currently pay in property taxes every year. Other TPL literature has stated that the tax increase would be almost 75 percent.

But TPL was accurate Monday morning when it reminded voters that the school board has already approved a $17-$18 million contact with CSRS Inc. of Baton Rouge for the master plan's implementation. As noted Aug. 23 in The Independent ("Marketing the Mark-up"), the board approved the contract two months before it's even known whether the money will be secured. CSRS is the same firm that created the master plan, for which the school board paid more than $900,000.

As also reported Sept. 21 in The Independent's "Dearth and Taxes," Lafayette Parish voters pay less school taxes than other parishes comparable in size, and would still be doing so even if the tax passes.

For more on the master plan, visit the school board's master plan website.