The Lafayette Parish School System is weighing options on seeking anywhere from a new 5 to 15 mill property tax to address its aging school facilities. Last night, CSRS Inc. presented its final findings after a year-long review process of parish facilities, in which it recommended the board adopt a 10-year $1.1 billion plan to construct or replace 13 schools, and renovate about a dozen others. The plan is broken into two phases. Phase one is estimated to cost $592 million to build or replace eight schools - including Northside and Lafayette High and a new career and technical high school - and renovate five others over five years. The school board will vote on whether to accept the plan, which does not obligate to any action, in two weeks.

I have a lot of confidence that the [plan] reflects what the community wants to see," school board member Mike Hefner says. "I think all of us were a little taken aback by the projected costs." He noted that $1 billion equates to about three years' worth of the school board's general budget. Generating the the almost $600 million needed for phase 1 in five years would likely require passing a 15 mill property tax. Generally speaking, a 1 mill property tax can generate approximately $10 million a year. However, Hefner added that there are several options involved, including staggering issuance of the bonds or extending the time period for which they are issued. Another option could involve using some sales tax revenue, scheduled to be freed up in a couple of years, to fund a portion of the projects.  

The plan, as written, recommends projects begin to get underway Jan. 1, 2011. The next three election dates the school board could place a proposed tax on the ballot are October, November and April, 2011. The board would need to submit a ballot proposition approximately two months in advance of the election. Most observers see an October date, which would coincide with school board elections, as unlikely and that November may also be too aggressive a timeline.

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