Trustees of St. Helena Parish School District voted last week to form a committee to find some way to finance replacement of the district’s aging buildings and raise teacher salaries.

Alan Offner of Foley & Judell LLP told the board that an election to institute a 55-mill school property tax could not be held until April unless one is ordered earlier by the federal judge overseeing the district’s 57-year-old racial discrimination lawsuit.

The board missed a deadline for getting the measure onto the November ballot, Offner said.

District officials are seeking the tax to support $20 million of 25-year bonds for school projects. The district’s three schools are at least 40 years old.

Board president Elijah Harvey said the parish-wide committee would be separate from the committee being formed by U.S. District Judge James Brady to resolve the district’s problems.

Harvey told trustees that the committee would include up to five residents from each of the parish’s five sub-districts.

In a recent court filing, school officials said a court-imposed tax was necessary to provide the funds needed to pay teachers an adequate salary and replace the deteriorating facilities. Voters in the district have rejected three attempts in the last three years to impose the additional tax.

“The white community not only abandoned the public school system physically, it withdrew its financial support as well,” board attorney Nelson Taylor said in the filing.

The district, which is located about 40 miles east of Baton Rouge, has no rated debt.

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