Building projects top St. James school agenda

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2011

By David Vitrano


LUTCHER – The St. James Parish School Board this week authorized Superintendent Alonzo Luce and Board President Charles Nailor to negotiate with those who own property near the intersection of Louisiana highways 3127 and 20 in Vacherie about the possibility of acquiring about 50 acres there.

If acquired, the land could become the new home of St. James High School.

Said Board Vice President George Nassar, “If the land management plan goes through, it seems there will be more and more industry near St. James High. We’re trying to get ahead of the curve.”

Nassar stressed there are still no set plans to move the school, and at this point these negotiations will be something akin to fact-finding missions, just to gauge the cost iof such a land acquisition.

“We’re going to try to make a decision as soon as possible,” said Nassar. “It’s one of our top priorities right now.”

On the other side of the river, the Lutcher High football team will make its debut in its new stadium Sept. 9. Although the board on authorized architect Perry Segura to obtain bids for emergency lighting at the stadium, Nassar said this is a new request from the state fire marshal, and otherwise the stadium will be ready for the team’s first home game.

The new media center and classrooms at Lutcher High are also complete.

The board also agreed to roll back millages for 2011 from 45.06 to 43.96. This is the fourth year in a row the board has done so.

Administrative Director of Business Operations Jim Mitchell warned board members before them vote that as 2012 is a reassessment year, the new millage rate would become the maximum allowed without going back to the voters.

Although he did not disagree with the rollback, Luce said, “By doing this, we are leaving money on the table that voters already approved.”

He estimated that amount at $400,000.

In other action Tuesday, the board agreed to raise its contribution to the parish’s LSU Ag Center office from $3,000 to $8,000.

County Agent Kenneth Guidry explained how the recent budget cuts have hit the Ag Center particularly hard.

“We at the Ag Center do not have a student body we can tax,” said Guidry.

He said the Ag Center had previously asked local governing bodies to match 10 percent of the local office’s salaries but is now hoping for a 20 percent match. He noted the Ag Center has lost 300 positions in the past two years and has closed research stations and merged programs to cut expenses.

The St. James Parish Council has agreed to fund the Ag Center in excess of $60,000.

After the board approved the additional funding Luce said, “We really appreciate the programs you provide. I am very concerned about future budget cuts and what that means.”

Lastly, the board granted $1,000 and release time to Felix Landry and 11 students to attend the Future Farmers of America Convention in Indianapolis Oct. 17-22.