Advisers say show of unity needed
LAFAYETTE — If the Lafayette Parish School Board decides to bring a tax proposal to fund public education to voters in the spring, it needs to show a unified front with the district administration, specifically the superintendent, said members of an advisory group Monday during its final meeting.
Relations between Superintendent Pat Cooper and some board members have been strained during televised board meetings.
“The board and superintendent have to act like they like each other,” committee member Lynn Guidry said.
Guidry is one of about 40 members on the School Board’s community education plan committee, which has met since March to integrate the district’s existing plans for facilities and educational programs and to identify a way to pay for building and instructional needs.
The group has proposed a combination of sales and property taxes on the May 3 ballot to fund construction and the implementation of the district’s educational initiatives, known as the turnaround plan.
While the committee favored one tax option, it proposed several for the board to consider.
The board could consider a tax proposal at its Nov. 20 meeting.
At its Sept. 23 meeting, a majority of the 26 committee members in attendance favored an option that proposes a half-cent sales tax and 20-mill property tax.
As part of that plan, the half-cent sales tax and 2 mills of the 20 mills would generate $27.2 million annually and would be dedicated to the turnaround plan; four of the 20 mills would generate $6.4 million annually and be dedicated to employee pay increases; and the remaining 14 mills would fund debt service for about $384 million each year in construction projects.
The School Board will consider the group’s recommendations during its facilities retreat planned from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 16 at the School Board office. The retreat is open to the public.
Some board members have proposed using excess sales tax revenue as a starter account for bond debt on school construction.
The board is on track to spend about $15 million to alleviate overcrowding at two schools in Youngsville. The board will have three new K-8 charter schools in the district that could impact building needs. The schools will open in August and two more charter schools will open by 2017.
The retreat is a “chance for the board to dig deeper into the recommendations,” said Brent Henley, the committee’s facilitator.
Committee members recommended other topics the board should discuss at its retreat, such as the creation of an advisory committee to help educate the public about a tax, the need for a privately funded marketing plan six to eight months prior to the election and merging the district’s 2010 facilities master plan and a more recent list of campus-by-campus needs identified by principals.
If the tax is passed, the committee proposed two ways the board could build upon the public’s trust: an oversight committee and the release of quarterly reports on how the tax dollars are being spent.
Without additional revenue, the district faces a $13 million deficit next year, Cooper said.
Other proposed tax options, with expected annual revenue, include:
- A half-cent sales tax for the turnaround plan and an 18-mill property tax — 4 mills for employee pay increases and 14 mills for facilities — that would generate $24 million for the turnaround plan, $6.4 million for employee pay increases and debt service on $384 million for facilities.
- A half-cent sales tax for education and 16-mill property tax — 4 mills for employee pay increases and 12 mills for facilities — that would generate $24 million for the turnaround plan, $6.4 million for pay increases and debt service on $329 million for facilities.
- A 25-mill property tax — 16 mills for education programming, 4 mills for employee pay increases and 5 mills for facilities — that would generate $25.6 million for the turnaround plan, $6.4 million for employee pay increases and debt service on $137 million for facilities.
- A 16-mill property tax — 10 mills for education, 4 mills for employee pay increases and 2 mills for facilities — that would generate $16 million for the turnaround plan, $6.4 million for employee pay increases and debt service for $54.8 million for facilities.