A 79-page study of Lafayette Parish’s public schools by the League of Women Voters of Lafayette said the local schools are overcrowded and underfunded. The study said too many of the public schools in the parish are “over age and require immediate, extensive repairs; they have safety needs that cannot wait.” The Lafayette Parish School Board has not issued general obligation bonds for school construction backed by property taxes since 1988.About 60% of Lafayette Parish’s public schools are at least 40 years old, about 40% are more than 50 years old, and about 25% of all classrooms are in portable buildings, the report saidRecommendations include dedicating a minimum of 7% to 9% of the annual general fund budget to scheduled preventive maintenance.The biggest problem is a lack of adequate funding for public schools in the parish, according to the report.“Lafayette Parish voters have historically provided insufficient funding for Lafayette Parish school system instructional programming and capital improvements, across many school boards and superintendents,” the report said. Lafayette Parish has the third-highest per capita income in the state, the report noted, but 26 other parishes pay higher school property tax rates.The study found that nearly 90% of the Lafayette school system budget goes to salaries, with only 1% for facilities acquisition and construction. The district has been planning to build a vocational-technical high school since the early 1990s but has been unable to finance the project. A pay-as-you-go plan will not be sufficient to address the expensive list of needs, according to the report, which also recommended the development of a long-range facilities plan for addressing the insufficiencies.Lafayette Parish Consolidated School District No. 1’s general obligation bonds are rated A by Standard & Poor’s, A2 by Moody’s Investors Service, and A-plus by Fitch Ratings.
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