|Mark Allen Babineaux||Former Superintendent Burnell Lemoine|
With negotiations under way between the Lafayette Parish School System and CSRS — the company paid $900,000 to create a facilities master plan in 2009 — Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper is questioning a “suspicious” $16.5 million contractual provision signed by former Superintendent Burnell Lemoine and school board member Mark Allen Babineaux, then president of the board.
That provision, approved by Lemoine and Babineaux without a vote of the school board, would give CSRS a 3.3 percent revenue share of any school system tax passed by parish voters within 30 months of the contract's signing on Oct. 26, 2011. Here’s the suspicious part: the document was signed and approved by Lemoine and Babineaux four days after parish voters denied such a tax in a failed bond election held Oct. 22, 2011.
Had that $500 million bond issue passed, CSRS's cut would have been a whopping $16.5 million.
Now, with Cooper at the helm, and the first-ever comprehensive plan in place for the school system, the discussion of putting a tax back before voters has reemerged. One pressing problem, however, is that provision signed before his tenure as superintendent — a provision that promises millions to execute a plan voters shot down and the system isn't even following.
Cooper, who met with CSRS officials Tuesday, says the company is willing to negotiate.
“I told them we want them to make a presentation to the Community Education Plan Committee, which will determine our timing on holding another bond issue,” Cooper tells The IND. “If CSRS doesn’t negotiate on the [3.3 percent] rate, we’ll have to wait until the 30-month moratorium, which starts from the last election in 2011, has expired.”
If CSRS and the system can't come to an agreement on a better deal, putting the issue back before voters would have to wait until 2014.
“What got us into this pickle is because Mark Allen Babineaux [and Lemoine] signed this four days after the bond issue was defeated, and my question is what’s up with that?” Cooper says. “Something is not right here. That provision basically binds us to a plan that was defeated by the public, not to mention it would cost [the school system] a whole lot of money. I think CSRS is willing to work with us, but we should’ve never been in this situation in the first place.”