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Photo: Annie Miller and her granddaughter Kadie Miller leave the St. Landry Parish Courthouse after casting their votes for the March 26 election.

Photo by FREDDIE HERPIN, Photographer

Contributing Writer

St. Landry Parish voters began ascending the Courthouse steps Saturday morning to cast early ballots in connection with the March 26 election.

The early voting period extends until March 19 from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. The Courthouse in Opelousas will not be open for voting on Sunday, March 13, according to Registrar of Voters Cheryl Milburn.

Voting in the March 26 election could be heavier than normal, Milburn says. During the past several weeks Milburn recalls the ROV has received more than the usual number of phone calls inquiring about the election.

Most of the interest Milburn says is due to a parish wide School Board property tax which asks voters to approve three separate propositions that include funding for increased employee salaries, revenues for improved athletic facilities and money for a capital outlay plan that seeks to build new lower elementary schools in Opelousas, Eunice, Lawtell and the southern end of the parish.

If all three parts of the School Board ballot are approved the property millage paid by property owners annually to the school district will increase by 23.8 mills, information presented at a March 4 bond forum at the Delta Grand indicates.

Supporters of the proposition have said salary increases are needed to prevent school personnel from moving to other parishes in order to seek higher pay.

Public school buildings parish wide are antiquated and need replacement, while those in the Lawtell and Cankton areas are overcrowded. Newer schools, supports have said, will increase interest in moving to the parish, since parents look to the school system as a major reason for relocating their families.

Those opposing the proposition have said during open meetings that the increase new millages necessary to build the schools, fund the raises and improve the athletic facilities are too costly for property owners to approve.

Opponents have also questioned whether it would be more economical for the school district to renovate the older schools.

Fire Protection District 5

Voters in the Leonville, Arnaudville and Prairie Laurent areas are being asked to renew a 14.25 mill property tax over a 10-year period in order to maintain fire stations and purchase and maintain equipment.

The ballot proposal estimates that if passed, the renewal will provide the Fire District with $497,000 annually in revenues beginning 2023.

School Board District 5 

Voters in the northern end of the parish can select a school board member for District 5 to complete several months for the unexpired term of Denise Rose, who died in 2021.

Bianca Vedell is currently representing District 5. Vedell, who is running as an independent, is being challenged by Jason Halphen and Tracey Beard, who list their party affiliations as Republican.