An overall price tag for proposed new St. Landry Parish elementary school construction is rising as the number of projected new facilities continues to increase.
Those are the pair of inflationary issues school board members face as the deadline approaches for approving a final budget for as many as four new kindergarten through fourth grade campuses.
The construction package still under consideration is tied to an ambitious parish wide property tax referendum scheduled March 26.
Not only are voters being asked to approve at least $150 million for new schools in Opelousas, Eunice and areas in the southern part of the parish, but also included are proposed raises for school employees and athletic facilities.
Each of the three proposals are separate ballot items, but if each is passed, taxes now paid by property owners will double to about 44 mills annually over a 10-year period.
Board members have rejected the idea of renovating any of the elementary schools due to age and potential costs.
When Phase One discussions began in July, school board members agreed that new elementary construction would be limited to Opelousas and Eunice at a combined cost of slightly more than $90 million.
Later the Board approved another new elementary school at an added cost of $43 million for the Cankton area where demographic studies have shown significant population increases.
Last week project manager Lyn Kenley who represents Volkert, Inc., said focus group feedback from prospective voters in Leonville, Arnaudville and Grand Coteau shows a preference for also building a fourth k-4 school to accommodate students.
Kenley said he can massage the price escalation for all four schools down to about $155 million.
New School Need for south St. Landry
Superintendent Patrick Jenkins told the Board that he feels the consistent growth in the south end of St. Landry justifies considering new school construction in that area, especially at Cankton, where students are crammed into a facility designed originally to hold a third of the current attendance.
“We have no other part of the parish that is experiencing that much growth,” Jenkins said.
Board members Josh Boudreaux and Kyle Boss who represent the south St. Landry school districts, said the need is apparent for building new campuses in those parts of the parish.
Both Boudreaux and Boss have insisted that the March 26 tax proposition cannot be passed without support from voters in the south St. Landry precincts.
However Kenley warned that the deadline is tightening for making a final decision on overall costs for building new schools.
“Time is running out. You need to take all this information from the focus groups, digest it and come to a decision very soon,” Kenley told the Board.
This article originally appeared on Opelousas Daily World: St. Landry wants to build new schools, budget and number increasing