The St. Charles Parish Public Schools School Board is seeking authorization from local voters to issue new bonds not to exceed $35 million for important capital improvement projects.
The special election will be held on April 30.
If approved, the new bonds will be serviced by existing 1.2 mills of the total 5.01 debt service millage, with no increase in taxes. Currently, 1.2 mills amounts to approximately $1.39 a month for a home valued at $200,000 and $1.83 a month for a home valued at $250,000.
Literature produced by the school district insists that taxes will not increase if the bond issue is passed, and that the school system intends to continue to levy the same debt service millage upon the issuance of the new bonds.
Jessica Marse, a Montz resident and mother of three, said she is in favor of the bond issue.
“I have children in St. Charles Parish Public Schools for many more years, and I am always for anything to help improve our schools,” she said. “After doing some research, this money has already helped major projects in the past and the things on the list that it will continue to fund are all improvements to our schools.”
Per law, the funds would only be able to be used for capital improvement projects. Additionally, any funds that are in the Sinking Funds (funds received from bond issue millages) can only be used to repay bonded debt.
“It is possible that the millage rate could be reduced in coming years if the voters do not approve the issuance of additional bonds,” school district literature states. “However, the school system has historically taken advantage of the redemption of outstanding bonds to continue to upgrade student facilities without a tax increase.”
Many local residents have expressed their disapproval for the ballot item.
“St. Charles Parish has become increasingly expensive for the retired and people on fixed incomes,” Darren Gaubert, who lives in the Des Allemands area, said. “I plan on moving by the time I turn 62. I’m against these off-year elections. This has been going on every time the parish tries to enact new spending. We are taxed enough already.”
Hahnville resident Rick Whitney agrees.
“I believe that it is unethical to exploit the system by internally lobbying their employee base while paying taxpayers funds – $64,000 – for a special election that they know good and well will have a very low turnout,” he said. “Essentially they are manipulating the system to the taxpayers detriment, at the taxpayer’s expense. Also, this is not a renewal of an old tax. The prior debt has been paid. This is new tax. I’m tired of their word craft.”
Funds created by the passage of the bond issue would be funneled into three areas: career and technical education renovations and additions, renovations and additions at numerous district centers and schools and technology.
“Preparing our students for the future, expanding opportunities, modernizing facilities and upgrading technology allows for our students to receive a well-rounded education in the latest and greatest learning environment,” Superintendent Dr. Ken Oertling said. “We must continue to look for ways to ensure our students are prepared for an ever-changing work force and world. Together, we can make a lasting impact on students for years to come.”
Proposed work that falls under career and technical education additions and renovations – which carries a $16,616,000 price tag – encompasses work at Destrehan High, Hahnville High and the Satellite Center.
For DHS, it would include renovation of the existing career and technical education area to modernize and improve functionality and an addition of a covered outdoor workspace adjacent to the career and technical education area. At HHS, it would include renovation of the existing career and technical education area to modernize and improve functionality and construction of a new classroom building addition for the career and technical education area.
Renovation of the applied science wing to modernize and improve functionality and construction of a new classroom building addition would be on tap for the Satellite Center.
Ringing in at $13,134,000 are proposed renovations and additions at all middle schools, high schools, East Bank Head and Luling Elementary. Albert Cammon Middle, Harry Hurst Middle, J.B. Martin Middle and R.K. Smith Middle Schools would see renovation and conversion of existing computer labs to STEAM labs, and Destrehan and Hahnville High Schools would see renovation and conversion of libraries to flexible, digital media spaces.
Included in the price tag would also be the renovation of science labs at Destrehan High School, and construction of a new building addition to include classrooms and office space at the East Bank Head Start Center.
Reconfiguration to allow for parking, a bus circle and a drop-off canopy and renovation of building J including new paint, light fixtures, flooring, ceiling work, technology and furnishings would also happen at East Bank Head Start.
At Harry Hurst and J.B. Martin Middle Schools there would be an addition of an elevator to building A at J.B. Martin Middle School and a replacement of existing building B elevator at Harry Hurst Middle School.
Luling Elementary School would see renovations of buildings B, C and D including new paint, light fixtures, flooring, ceiling work, technology, furnishings and restrooms. R.K. Smith Middle School would see expansion of the main building to construct additional classrooms including new paint, light fixtures, flooring, ceiling work, technology and furnishings.
Carrying a $5,250,000 price tag is the technology component of the bond proposal. It includes an upgrade to the technology network infrastructure and a plan to equip classrooms with up-to-date, interactive large screen devices. Installation of additional security cameras and an upgrade to existing cameras is also in the proposal.
The last school district bond issue passage was in 2015. It rang in at $42,000,000 and included safety and security upgrades, building renovations and construction of the Lafon Performing Arts Center.
March 30 is the deadline to register in person or by mail for the vote, and April 9 is the deadline to register online.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot from the Registrar of Voters is April 26, and April 29 is the deadline for the Registrar to receive absentee ballots.
Early voting will be held April 16-23 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Registrar of Voters Office, located at the Westbank Courthouse and at the Arterbury Building, located at 14564 River Road in New Sarpy.