Jolene Gremillion and Kathyrn LaFleur
Local News

School Election Story — looking ahead

Photo: Opelousas Catholic student, Kathryn LaFleur, accompanies her grandmother, Jolene Gremillion, as she prepares to vote Saturday at the IFBS Lodge in Prairie Laurent. Jolene Gremillion, signing in to vote Saturday.

Photo by FREDDIE HERPIN, Photographer

Contributing Writer

The St. Landry Parish School Board is scheduled beginning Monday to discuss using federal revenue sources to enhance employee salaries and improve facilities following an overwhelming rejection Saturday of three new property tax propositions in a parish wide election.

Listed for discussion on the two Monday committee agendas are the possibility of using remaining Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds to give all school workers $1,000 stipends, while a separate proposal includes utilizing ESSER funding for facilities.

Spending ESSER II revenues for the employee stipends is scheduled for discussion by the Finance Committee, while the Building, Lands and Sites Committee will consider using ESSER money for facility enhancements.

Superintendent Patrick Jenkins has said however that funding guidelines prevent the District from using ESSER revenues for new school construction.

The school district last year received $101 million in ESSER money. So far the District has spent about a third of those revenues for COVID-19 relief and another $22 million has been dedicated for improving various aspects of all school buildings.

Earlier in March the Board rejected a proposal to use $15 in ESSER III revenues to build new facilities at Port Barre and Palmetto.

Proposition Failure

All three property tax propositions that included raises for school workers, money for improved athletic facilities and construction for four kindergarten-through- fourth grade schools failed in Saturday’s election according to complete but unofficial results.

The complete election results show that 75 percent of those voting rejected a property tax proposal of 9.9 mills over 10 years that would have given teachers a $3,000 annual raise, while support personnel were scheduled to receive $2,000. The estimated cost for that proposal was $6.5 million.

The 10-year athletic 1-mill facility plan that would have cost $662,000 annually was rejected by 78 percent of the voters, the results indicated.

Also voters refused to approve a $150 million new construction plan for building k-4 schools in Opelousas, Eunice, Lawtell and in the southern end of St. Landry. That new construction plan would have increased property taxes by 12.9 mills annually over at least 10 years.

Second Time Around

The failure of the property tax propositions on Saturday was similar to the outcome on March 26, 2018, when parish voters rejected by 73.8 percent, a plan for maintenance, construction and employees’ raises.

In both the 2018 and for Saturday’s election, opponents launched a decisive pre-election campaign against using property taxes for raises and facilities’ improvements.

Since then the District has not constructed any new facilities parish wide.

District 5 Race

Incumbent school board member Bianca Vedell and challenger Jason Halphen will move into a runoff for the vacated seat in District 5, which includes the Melville, Palmetto and Morrow areas.

The complete but unofficial results on Saturday night indicate that Halphen, who ran as a Republican, received 39 percent of the vote.

Vedell, who became the District 5 board member following the death of Denise Oliney Rose, received 32 percent. Vedell ran as an independent in Saturday’s election.