St. John Schools bond election possible in January

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Staff Reporter

RESERVE — A proposal to allow the St. John the Baptist Parish school district to borrow $20 million in bonds, to be used for construction and improvement of school buildings, was turned down by the public last month, but school officials have no intention of forgetting about it.

The election, which took place on July 16, had a turnout of 3,544 voters. In the end, the proposal failed by 344 votes.

Ann LaBorde, executive director of personnel and legal services for the district, said they would eventually try again at the polls, possibly in January.

In the weeks before the election, Superintendent Michael Coburn asked principals of all schools to compile a “wish list” of improvements they would like to see made. From those lists, and the formation of a communications committee, a priority list of 10 projects was made to spend the money on if the bond issue were voted in.

The top five priorities the committee decided on included new roofs for several schools; new cafeteria tables for all schools; construction of a ninth grade wing for East St. John High; construction of a new elementary school; and physical education facilities for LaPlace Elementary, Ory Magnet, Fifth Ward Elementary and East St. John Elementary. These projects added to nearly $14 million.

According to LaBorde, the wish list will stay if the matter comes up in election again. “I haven’t heard anyone saying we needed to change it,” LaBorde said, “It was firm decisions that were made over many meetings and a long period of time.”

However board member Russ Wise said he expects the list will likely be started all over again before the school system asks the public to allow them to borrow money.

Wise was the only member to vote against the terms of the list at a board meeting held shortly before the election.

“It was ‘Gee, we can spend $20 million, now let’s go and see what we can spend it on,'” Wise said, “It’s a matter of stepping back a couple of paces, looking at it realistically and coming up with a better plan.”

Wise said he said the district may consider next time ask to borrow less.

LaBorde said, instead of concentrating on changing the list, in the event of another election, she thinks more time will be spent reaching out to the public.

“I don’t think we had

enough time to get information to the public,” LaBorde said, “It’s just a matter of getting them to understand the needs of the system.”

The election also dealt with the use of two taxes already in effect, a 6 mills property tax to be rededicated, and a 4.57 property tax that will expire but would be renewed.

The first tax would have gone toward salaries and fringe benefits for employees, with the second to be used for the operation and maintenance of school facilities.

Wise said he thinks the district will eventually ask again for the tax renewal.