LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School Board voted 5-1 Wednesday to authorize the sale of $30 million in bonds to fund school improvement projects.
The board now has to approve how it will spend the money before its financial team will court investors, according to a provision in the resolution authorizing the bond agreement.
Board members Kermit Bouillion, Shelton Cobb, Hunter Beasley, Rae Trahan and Themi Chassion voted in favor of the resolution. Board member Mark Allen Babineaux voted against it.
The school district’s staff proposed a list of $31 million in projects at six schools to the School Board during a Sept. 19 meeting, but the board has not taken action on the recommendations. The projects would be funded with the $30 million in bonds and $3 million in the district’s capital projects budget.
Bond attorney Jerry Osborne told the board that the bonds would not be sold until it approved the list of projects.
Cobb, board president, questioned why the board needed to approve the bond sale first.
“There is no time element other than the market,” said Billy Guidry, the district’s chief financial officer. “We know what the market looks like now. The longer this takes, (there’s) more of a chance for the market to change.”
The current interest rate for the bonds is 3.68 percent, according to data presented by Lee Bressler, managing director of Raymond James Morgan Keegan in New Orleans.
“It’s an attractive time to borrow,” Bressler said.
Board member Greg Awbrey attended the meeting, but walked out of the room after he and Cobb argued over who had the floor to speak.
Cobb previously had chastised Trahan for a sidebar conversation Trahan had while Cobb was speaking.
When Cobb spoke over Awbrey’s comments, Awbrey reminded Cobb of the “respect” comment he made to Trahan. Cobb said he had the floor and Awbrey walked out of the board room and did not return for the vote.
Though the board has yet to approve the project list, it has approved the hiring of an architect for the $8.9 million expansion of Green T. Lindon Elementary and the advertising for an architect for the $5.3 million expansion of Youngsville Middle. Both school expansions are on the projects list.
Overcrowded schools are an issue in Youngsville, and school enrollment is expected to grow with the residential developments in the southern part of the parish.
Beasley proposed moving forward with a decision on the projects due to the needs in Youngsville.
“Youngsville is not going to be ready at the beginning of the school year,” Beasley said, referring to the expansion of the Youngsville schools. “We’ve pushed it back far enough right now. We’d be extremely lucky if Green T. Lindon is open on day one.”
Other projects on the list are:
- $2.5 million in renovations, air conditioning work and other improvements at Northside High School.
- $9 million in building additions and renovations at David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy.
- $3 million for renovations and a new cafeteria for L.J. Alleman Middle.
- $2 million for renovations, air conditioning work and other improvements at Lafayette High.
The board plans to discuss the recommended projects at its retreat Saturday at South Louisiana Community College, and a workshop on the projects is scheduled Nov. 7, which is before the board’s next regular meeting.