Committee waits to present proposal to school board

A volunteer committee discussed Monday whether to turn over its proposal on how to pay for education initiatives for the school district’s turnaround plan and for facility needs to the Lafayette Parish School Board.

In the end, the Community Education Plan Committee decided to create a subcommittee to draft a proposal that will be presented at the board’s Oct. 16 meeting so the committee can get feedback from board members before making a final recommendation.

That also will allow time to discuss potential tax proposals with the board at the meeting.

The committee began its work in March to analyze potential funding strategies to pay for educational initiatives in the district’s turnaround plan, which includes hundreds of recommendations to improve performance in the district through 2018, and to address paying for the district’s major facility needs.

At its meeting Monday, the group considered five different taxing options presented by district chief financial officer Billy Guidry.

The 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 proposed plan, the half-cent sales tax and 2 mills of the 20 mills would be dedicated to the turnaround plan, generating $27.2 million; 4 mills would be dedicated to employee pay increases, generating $6.4 million; and the remaining 14 mills would fund debt service on about $384 million in school facility projects.

Guidry estimated that about $33 million in new funding is needed to implement turnaround initiatives through the 2017-18 school year and an estimated $384 million is needed to address facilities, based on a list of needs identified by principals.

The principals’ list includes facilities projects they said needed to be addressed for their schools to be A-rated.

In 2010, the district also paid for a facilities master plan, which identified campus-by-campus needs, which totaled $1.1 billion.

In October 2011, voters rejected a property tax plan to pay for about $560 million in major school construction and repairs identified in phase one of the master plan.

On Monday, some committee members said they feared what would happen should voters again reject a tax proposal. Some members suggested the board poll the public about a potential tax, using a political action committee.

“We have to create a vision,” said Kirby Pecot, an architect who serves on the committee.

Pecot said the board has to clearly show the public its goals with the tax plan and how they’re going to meet those goals.

“A critical point of the vision is what happens if you don’t support public education,” said Mandi Mitchell, a committee member.

The group next meets Oct. 28 to vote on a formal recommendation it will make to the board.

Other tax options

Other tax options considered by the committee:

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 generates $24 million for 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 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 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 turnaround plan, $6.4 million for employee pay increases and debt service for $54.8 million for facilities.