Schools will seek $45 million in bonds
During a Capital Improvements Committee meeting on Monday, the St. Charles Parish School Board discussed the possibility of taking out $50 million in bonds for future construction projects.
If the Board approves the measure, residents will be asked in April to approve a $50 million bond issue for specific future construction projects. Approval of this bond issue will extend the schools’ current debt service tax rate for an additional 10 years and will not lead to any tax increase.
Jim Melohn, chief financial and administrative officer, said that many future projects would definitely have to be put on hold if voters do not approve the bond issue.
Five new wings are included in the list of future projects for the district. Of those wings, one will be built with an arts sector at Destrehan High, one with a ticket booth at Hahnville High, one with a locker room at Cammon Middle, one with 13 classrooms and a library at Norco K-3 and one with six classrooms and a library at Luling Elementary.
The list also includes field house expansions and renovations at both local high schools, renovations on buildings A-D at Norco 4-6, modification/incorporation of the A. A. Songy facility at Lakewood Elementary and a kindergarten addition at Mimosa Park Elementary.
The total for all future projects is projected at about $40.1 million.
Superintendent Rodney Lafon said that these projects would eliminate most portables and "take schools to a level that is appropriate for the 21st century."
The future projects would eliminate 66 of the district’s portable buildings, leaving only three, according to John Rome, executive director of physical plant services. Rome said that the district currently spends about $286,000 each year on rent and upkeep of its portables.
Melohn said that going out for the issuance of bonds would make future projects possible without having to raise taxes.
He said that the district’s debt is scheduled to retire in 2022, but approval of this measure would push that date back 10 years. So in 2022 the tax rate will be reduced, but approving these bonds would mean that the current tax rate, or millage, would continue for another 10 years.
"Basically, 10 years from now if it isn’t approved…the millage would reduce," Melohn said. "If it is approved, it’s continuing the millage 10 years further out, but we won’t see any effect for 10 years."
Melohn said that taking out additional bonds now could be a win-win for the school district and parishioners.
"From a bids standpoint it is an excellent time, and as far as repaying the loans, the interest rates are at an all-time record low," he said. "Ultimately it saves the district and the tax payers money (to take bonds out) now."
The board must decide by January if they want to move forward and have the bond issuance voted on during the April 21 election next year.
While the board has been discussing a future $26.9 million performing arts center on the Ashton Plantation property for some time, they said that these bonds would not be used for that facility. Board members said that the district will seek other funding for that facility if they decide to move forward with it.
"We took out the performing arts center because it would have shot the cost up significantly over what you have available," said Board Member John Smith during Monday’s meeting.
The district last voted to approve a bond issue 10 years ago. That $28 million in bonds was used for a number of projects, including the Satellite Center.
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