After months of discussion and public outcry, the Lafayette Parish School Board is finally set to decide Wednesday whether to place two separate tax proposals on the ballot for voters this fall.
The first property tax, which would levy at least 23 mills in its first year to fund the issuance of $561 million in bonds, would be used to pay for the first phase of a $1.1 billion facilities master plan adopted by the board last year. Also included in the tax proposition is an additional 2 mills to be set aside for maintenance of the district’s schools and other facilities.
The other tax proposal, first introduced June 15 with a proposed 5.4 mills, would now — if approved — allow the board to levy an additional 12-mills that would raise no more than $19.5 million a year to fund a districtwide Pre-K4 program.
LPSS Finance Director Matt Dugas tells The Advocate that the sudden increase on the pre-K tax proposal acts as a safeguard for any potential future loss of state funding. The Advocate reports that over the past five years, Lafayette Parish schools have seen a loss of more than $736,000 in state funding for pre-k and other early learning programs.
The board’s quest for more tax money has raised concerns from some in the community, such as the 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette, which asked the board a few months ago 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.
And no surprise here, the tax props are also under fire from the Tea Party of Lafayette, one of the city’s most active political groups as of late. The group, on its website, has this to say about the school board: “Last time LPSB got a tax increase, it brokered a deal with the Chamber of Commerce to implement reforms and achieve performance benchmarks in exchange for the Chamber’s support on the sales tax increase. LPSB never even TRIED to hold up its end of the bargain after the election. That tax increase in 2001 was for teacher pay raises, but LPSB used the money instead for its own pet project – lower class sizes. LPSB ignored considerable pressure from the Chamber to hold up its end of the bargain.
“LPSB built 4 new schools in the late 90’s [sic], ignored a court order to desegregate, and was later forced to build a 5th school that it hadn’t budgeted,” TPL continues.
The special school board meeting, open to the public, is at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the central office.