The Lafayette Parish School Board is moving forward with plans to place a property tax referendum on the ballot for voters this fall.
At its Wednesday night meeting, the board voted 7-1 in favor of the property tax recommendations, with Tehmi Chassion abstaining. Hunter Beasley, Rae Trahan, Mark Cockerham, Mark Allen Babineaux, Shelton Cobb, Tommy Angelle and Greg Awbrey voted for the recommendations. Kermit Bouillion was the lone no vote.
Discussion about the tax proposal was limited and centered around the verbiage of the committee’s recommendations and other technicalities. There was no talk about the 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette’s recent request for the board to hold off on a property tax until it selects a permanent superintendent and a long-term education plan to address the broad achievement gap for at-risk, low-income students.
The new millage, widely viewed as a tough sell for voters with an anti-tax sentiment and a board with a poor track record of school facilities maintenance, would be used to fund the first phase of a $1.1 billion facilities master plan adopted by the board last year. As part of the facilities master plan, the board created a Citizen Oversight Committee to recommend a way to fund the massive facilities repair project.
The board’s decision to place the tax on the ballot comes after Superintendent of Schools Burnell Lemoine announced Wednesday that he will not extend his contract beyond its Dec. 31 expiration, leaving the School Board with eight months to find a replacement.
The vote also followed a lengthy discussion Wednesday night between Beasley and department supervisors who faced tough questions about student performance, particularly in high poverty, low-performing schools.