Orleans Parish School Board approves financing for Phillis Wheatley Elementary

The Orleans Parish School Board met in an emergency meeting Thursday after several board members expressed distress that an item authorizing the securing of new tax credits did not appear on the agenda at the regular meeting Tuesday night.

The board approved the measure Thursday, which will provide about $2 million in tax credits for the construction of Phillis Wheatley Elementary School.

On Tuesday night, every board member voted to add the item to the agenda except for board president Ira Thomas.

The addition required a unanimous vote.

On Thursday, after a detailed presentation about the process and requirements, which includes a partnership with the Recovery School District, the board approved the use of the tax credit equity with a 5-1 vote.

Thomas again voted no, and Cynthia Cade was not present.

Thomas had expressed concern that the Orleans Parish School Board would be putting up about $22 million for the Wheatley construction, which it owns, but that would house an RSD school.

Previously, “The RSD and OPSB agreed to join forces to maximize all revenue sources,” Interim Superintendent Stan Smith said.

The Wheatley money is the first step in maximizing the new market tax credits, said Troy Villafarra, consultant and managing director of Crescent Growth Capital, but the implications will carry through to future projects.

Villafarra said that the original deadline of December 2012 had passed, and it was important to have the OPSB approve the measure by March 1 to give investors confidence in the board’s ability to secure the credits.

He said the environment for obtaining the federal tax credits is “very competitive.”

Smith listed about $40 million in historic tax credits and $40 million in new market tax credits that the board plans to utilize as it continues to seek funding needed to carry out the schools master plan.