School building budget goes up to $53 million

Deidre Cruse, Government Reporter

The Iberville Parish School Board gave preliminary approval to borrowing another $10 million for school construction projects through a new state authority offering what would amount to a less zero-interest loan.

The school system has already borrowed money to finance a $43 million construction and renovation program that initially included construction of a new school for the Math, Science and Arts Academy (MSA)-West, now located permanently at the E. J. Gay School campus. In 2008, voters approved a 20-year, 31-mill property tax to finance the program.

“We've gone over quite a bit if we need to borrow another $10 million,” said Board Member Dorothy R. Sansoni of Plaquemine, one of three who voted against the new loan.

When a land donation for the new MSA fell through, the school system had to build new facilities at Plaquemine High School and Iberville Elementary School for fifth- to eighth-graders who had attended school at E. J. Gay, Chief Financial Officer Jolain Landry said. The changes pushed the construction budget to $53.8 million.

The new Louisiana Government Environmental Facilities and Community Development Authority, created by the Louisiana Recovery Act, has approved $10 million for Iberville Parish, John Mayeaux of the New Orleans firm Sisung told the School Board last week.

“This is an opportunity,” said Superintendent P. Edward Cancienne Jr., who endorsed the move.

According to Landry, the federal government will reimburse the board for bond payments and interest. The School Board can earn more by investing the money than it will pay in interest, the CFO said.

“This is a very conservative projection,” she said. “We expect to pay $9.7 million on the $10 million.”

The board voted 11-3 for a resolution giving preliminary approval to the new bond issue, Sansoni, Albertha Hasten of White Castle and Stanley Washington of Maringouin voting no. Michael Hebert of Plaquemine was absent from the meeting. The board then appointed Cancienne to represent it on the state authority.

Landry said three major construction projects are still in the offing – a fine arts building with an auditorium and nine classrooms at MSA-West, estimated at $7.54 million; a Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Center with four large classrooms/laboratories and a lecture hall, estimated at $1.693 million and a new school for MSA-East, estimated at $9.836 million.

The current list of projects also includes $788,989 already paid for repairs at various school campuses; $543,605 for temporary buildings (although to date the board has paid $615,700); $6.8 million for classroom additions at Plaquemine High School; $2.045 million for the PHS field house; $250,171 for a roof and exterior doors at PHS; $1.44 million for PHS administrative and gym renovations; $586,800 for parking additions; $9.8 million for the Early Childhood Center at Iberville Elementary School; $1.08 million for interior renovations at Iberville Elementary; $348,169 for renovations at North Iberville Elementary School; $178,838 for a cooling tower at the Optional Education Center; $473,435 for renovations at MSA-West; $2.859 million for a new elementary gym at MSA-West; $1.39 million for site work at MSA-West; $3.05 million for entrance renovations at MSA-West; %470,000 for other renovations at MSA-West; $445,000 for a building pad at MSA-East, and $450,000 for miscellaneous maintenance projects.

When the 31-mill tax was proposed, the estimated construction budget included $9.59 million for MSA-East, $18 million for MSA-West, $7 million in new construction to accommodate seventh and eighth graders at PHS, and $1.79 million for a high school locker and weight room, along with $7.1 million in renovations at the nine existing schools.