Attorneys for the Evangeline Parish School Board said the school district cannot afford to build a new high school in Ville Platte until voters agree to raise the property tax rate.

The U.S. Justice Department asked federal District Judge Tucker Melancon in November to order the board to replace Ville Platte High School.

The request came after voters in October rejected a bond measure to fund a new school. The Justice Department said the old school, which has a predominantly black population, is one of the worst in the state.

Voters turned down a proposal for a $28.5 million, 40-year school construction bond that would have been supported by a property tax of about 25 mills.

The proposal failed by 299 votes. A property tax increase for the parish schools has failed at the polls five times since 1983.

A revised plan will be presented to voters on July 19. Melancon has set a hearing for a week later, and has frozen all construction spending by the district until then.

“If that tax proposition is unsuccessful, there will be no money for such a project and an order from the court to construct a school would be unenforceable,” the board’s attorneys wrote in the recent filing.

The board said in its filing that it has spent $2.7 million on improvements at the school since 2003.

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