Superintendent says surety is needed to meet current and future system needs

Voters on Saturday will decide the fate of a $35 million proposal from the St. Charles Parish Public Schools Board.

The board seeks authority to issue new bonds not exceeding $35 million for capital improvement projects. If approved, the new bonds will be serviced by renewing 1.2 thousandths – which expired in December 2021 – of the total 5.01 thousandths of debt service.

When asked what that mileage was for a household, St. Charles Parish Assessor Tab Troxler provided the following chart for what homeowners paid in 2021 for the 1.2 mills.

Troxler said the chart also represents the amount of annual savings a household would accrue if the proposed bond were not approved.

Documentation produced by the school district indicates that taxes will not increase if the bond issuance is passed and that the school system intends to continue to take the same mileage of debt service upon issuance. new bonds.

By law, the funds could only be used for capital improvement projects. In addition, any funds that are in sinking funds (funds received from bond issue miles) can only be used to pay off bond debt.

Many local residents expressed their disapproval of the ballot.

“I think it’s unethical to exploit the system by internally lobbying their employee base while handing out funds to taxpayers – $64,000 – for a special election that they know full well is going to happen. ‘She’ll have a very low turnout,’ said Hahnville resident Rick Whitney. “Essentially, they are manipulating the system to the detriment of the taxpayers, at the expense of the taxpayers. Moreover, it is not a renewal of an old tax. The previous debt has been paid. It is a new tax. I’m fed up with their handling of words.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ken Oertling said the earliest available election dates after February 2022 — when the bonds were officially repaid after the parish’s tax deadline was extended due to Hurricane Ida — were the March 26 and April 30.

“The April 30 date was chosen over March 26 in order to meet legal filing requirements while trying to recover from Hurricane Ida,” he said. “Choosing one of these dates for the election would allow new bond projects to begin as soon as possible. State law requires that a local government share the cost of an election that it either conducts or bears the total cost if nothing else on the ballot The $64,000 is an estimated cost determined by the Secretary of State to conduct an election.

Each member of the school board has been contacted for comments on the bond proposal. The only response received was from the president of the school board, Alex Suffrin.

“As chairman of the board, I answer on behalf of the entire board,” he said. “The list of projects made possible by this bond issue allows us to better meet the current needs of our students, our employees and the community. Students are at the heart of our decision-making as a board and we need to expand and improve current spaces and equipment to provide students with the environment and skills to succeed in the future.

Suffrin said he hopes voters will consider the opportunities and advancements that bond renewal would provide for students.

“I also hope they consider that whenever the school board has acquired bonds through voter approval, we have honored and fulfilled what was promised to the community,” Suffrin said. “Residents value public education and know the importance of an effective school system on quality of life. We are fortunate to have the support of our community and local partnerships which contribute greatly to our overall success.

Oertling said that in order for students in the district to be future-ready and prepared for an ever-changing workforce and world, district officials must provide them with optimal learning environments and resources.

“Over time and especially in the last few years of the pandemic, education has evolved and not all of our buildings have been renovated to meet current needs,” he said. “With a focus on career and technical education, early childhood, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), campuses need updates to adapt to current learning methods .”

Oertling said Destrehan and Hahnville High Schools were built in 1975 and the East Bank Start Center was built in 1958.

“The center office area is currently housed in a modular building,” he added. “Enrollment at the Satellite Center has increased and additional career paths continue to be added. As more opportunities are available to students and needs change, our buildings and equipment must also change.

Oertling said the proposed projects have been identified as priorities and are necessary to meet the current and future needs of the school system.

“If the bond issue does not go through, further assessment and planning will need to take place to determine timelines, as other sources of funding will need to be identified,” he said.

The funds created by the passage of the bond issue would be directed to three areas: vocational and technical education renovations and additions, renovations and additions to many district centers and schools, and technology.

Proposed work that falls under Career and Technical Education Additions and Renovations — which carries a price tag of $16,616,000 — includes work at Destrehan High, Hahnville High and the Satellite Center.

For DHS, this would include renovating the existing vocational and technical training area to modernize and improve functionality and adding a covered outdoor workspace adjacent to the vocational and technical training area. At HHS, this would include renovating the existing Career and Technical Education area to modernize and improve functionality and construction of a new classroom addition for the Career and Technical Education area.

Renovation of the Applied Science Wing to modernize and improve functionality and construction of a new addition to the classroom building would be on the cards for the satellite center.

Amounting to $13,134,000, renovations and additions are proposed for all middle schools, high schools, East Bank Head and Luling Elementary. Albert Cammon Middle, Harry Hurst Middle, JB Martin Middle and RK Smith Middle Schools would see the renovation and conversion of existing computer labs into STEAM labs, and Destrehan and Hahnville High Schools would see the renovation and conversion of libraries into flexible digital media spaces.

The award would also include renovating the science labs at Destrehan High School and constructing a new addition to the building to include classrooms and offices at the East Bank Head Start Center.

Reconfiguration to allow for parking, a bus circle and drop-off canopy and refurbishment of Building J including new paint, fixtures, flooring, ceiling work, technology and furnishings would also occur at East Bank Head Start.

At Harry Hurst and JB Martin Middle Schools, there would be an addition of an elevator to Building A at JB Martin Middle School and a replacement of the existing elevator in Building B at Harry Hurst Middle School.

Luling Primary School would see renovations to Buildings B, C and D, including new paint, fixtures, flooring, ceiling work, technology, furniture and toilets. RK Smith Middle School would see the expansion of the main building to build additional classrooms, including new paint, fixtures, flooring, ceiling work, technology and furniture.

Carrying a price tag of $5,250,000 is the technology component of the bond proposal. It includes an upgrade of the technology network infrastructure and a plan to equip classrooms with up-to-date interactive large-screen devices. The installation of additional security cameras and an upgrade of existing cameras are also part of the proposal.

The school district’s last bond issuance pass was in 2015. It was for $42,000,000 and included safety and security upgrades, building renovations, and the construction of the Lafon Performing Arts Center.

Oertling said he hopes residents keep several things in mind when they vote on Saturday.

“I hope they take into account our children, their learning environment and the need to update outdated facilities that currently do not meet the needs of our students and employees,” he said. he declares. “As we prepare students with the skills needed for an ever-changing workplace, our classes and spaces must be flexible, equipped with current technology, and foster collaboration, innovation, and creativity. Our students, employees and community value and support public education and it is an investment in our future for generations to come.

Polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.

There are temporary polling stations due to Hurricane Ida.

Precincts 1-2 and 1-2A will vote at Eual J. Landry, Sr. Middle School, located at 108 Tiger Circle in Hahnville.

Precincts 2 and 3 will vote at Mimosa Park Elementary School, located at 222 Birch St. in Luling.

Precincts 3-3 and 6-8 will vote at Ethel School Schoeffner Elementary School, located at 140 Plantation Rd. in Destréhan.

Precincts 4-1 and 4-1A will vote at Germans Elementary School, located at 1471 WPA Rd. in Germans.

Precinct 6-1 will vote at the Zephirin L. Perriloux Fire Station, located at 17830 River Rd. in Montz.

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