Editor and Contributing Writer
Feature Photograph: Demographer Mike Hefner explains proposed Opelousas taxing district lines during a Monday School Board meeting. (Photograph by Bobby Ardoin.)
Opelousas appears to be the first target as St. Landry Parish School Board members consider establishing a series of parish wide taxing districts that could facilitate funding for capital outlay projects.
Board members are prepared during a regular meeting scheduled Thursday to further discuss the adoption of a resolution creating the taxing district concept for possible voter approval Nov. 8.
A taxing district that includes Opelousas was discussed on Monday as board members attended a day-long retreat at the Resource Center meeting room.
The Monday discussion of a possible taxing district that affects all Opelousas public schools was a continuation of an issue that began for consideration during an April 26 Executive Committee meeting.
Demographer Mike Hefner told the Board that current high school zones should be used as boundary lines when the individual districts are created for taxing purposes.
“The most favorable way of creating these zones is using the high schools as the boundaries. If not then you run the risk of push back from property owners. What you really want to do is make sure that the voters have children that go to schools in the (taxing) district,” Hefner told board members.
Board member Hazel Sias pointed out that students who attend Grolee Elementary in Opelousas are eventually zoned for the Northwest High zone.
Hefner said the Board could vote to include Grolee Elementary into the Opelousas special taxing district, since the Grolee students attend a school inside Opelousas.
Board president Albert Hayes, Jr. said while other taxing districts within the St. Landry School District can be perhaps created by the Board at a later date it is obvious some board members representing Opelousas schools are eager to have an Opelousas taxing district set up immediately.
During the April 26 committee meeting, Board bonding attorney Eric Lafleur said the School District has the authority to create the parameters for special taxing districts. Voters are provided with the chance to approve the district and any potential tax assessments that would be used by the taxing district for construction and maintenance.
Consideration by board members for special taxing districts came several weeks after voters rejected for a second straight time since 2018 a parish wide property tax referendum for teachers’ salaries, maintenance and new elementary school construction.
Several board members including Randy Wagley, one of five board members who represent the Opelousas area, said he feels it is too soon after an election defeat to consider creating taxing districts.
Roderick Sias, who spoke during Monday’s retreat said there is an immediate need for addressing the condition of Opelousas schools. “This is the time to move our schools into the 21st century and build schools for our children. If not now, when?” Sias asked.