RPSB looks to community after bond issues on Dec. 11 ballot fail

A couple of big measures for two Rapides Parish School Districts aimed at financing improvements and major renovations to facilities failed on the ballot.
Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 5:47 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2021 at 5:53 PM CST
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RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - Two Rapides Parish School bond measures on the ballot for the Dec. 11 election, aimed at financing improvements and major renovations to facilities, both failed, but school board members look to the community to help make changes possible.

Voters shot down a potential $14 million bond issue for the Buckeye School District, with 60%, or 796 voters, marking their ballot against the measure. The bond would have impacted Buckeye Elementary, Hayden R. Lawrence Upper Elementary, Buckeye Jr. High and Buckeye High School.

The bond issue would have required an increase in the annual millage on property values to 32 mills for the next 20 years.

In District 57, voters struck down a potential $10 million bond issue for Carter C. Raymond Junior High and Caroline Dormon Junior High, with 53%, or 302 voters, marking their ballot against the measure.

The bond issue would have required an increase to 22 mills for the next 20 years.

Despite the failed measures, school board members are still looking for a way to make improvements to the facilities, noting community involvement and support are essential in making the changes possible.

“We need to improve the quality of our facilities,” said Linda Burgess, RPSB member for District F. “But, we need everybody in the community to agree to that and help. If the bond is not the way, we need some input from the community to say, okay, we might not want the bond, but we can do it this way.”

RPSB Superintendent Jeff Powell said the school board was disappointed with the results, but they will continue to provide educational opportunities to students living in those facilities with the resources on hand. However, in the meantime, there are several emergent needs that have to be addressed.

For example, at facilities like Buckeye Jr. High School, things like the H-VAC system and structural improvements will need to be addressed, even though a bond for the district did not receive voter approval. For that, RPSB will need to consult federal funding and the facilities department to identify other ways to finance improvements.

“Public education is a locally funded endeavor. Specifically, when we talk about facilities, whether it’s new construction or maintenance, they are funded by the local tax base,” said Powell. “In Rapides Parish, we have 13 separate tax bases. So, when there is a need, which we are at a point now that the vast majority of our facilities are over 50-years old, in some communities we haven’t passed additional bonds for facility upgrades in dozens of years. If we want to improve the facilities, we talk about our strategic plan operations-wise as having better facilities, better programs and better pay. You know, sometimes that is going to take an additional investment at the community level.”

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