The combined rebuilding program of Louisiana’s Orleans Parish School District and state-operated New Orleans Recovery School District needs to be reconsidered, a coalition of New Orleans business and civic groups said last week.
Without a revision to the 10-year school facilities master plan, the groups said, the federal funds available for the school rebuilding effort would run out with completion of only the first two phases of the three-phase plan.
“Renovation and construction of 19 school facilities included in Phase III at an estimated cost of $422 million would be contingent on taxpayers footing the bill for a bond issue,” the coalition said in a letter to district officials.
The $1.6 billion of federal funds available should have been sufficient to rebuild or restore 73 public schools damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the groups said.
At current spending levels, the funds would run out after 54 schools are renovated or rebuilt, they claimed.
“Given the amount of funding available from federal sources for construction, it is astonishing that full execution of the plan depends on a major bond issue and tax levy,” the letter said.
The districts received a total of $2.1 billion of federal disaster funds, and spent $500 million on immediate post-disaster needs and emergency restorations.
The coalition includes leaders of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, the Bureau of Government Research, and the Tulane’s Scott S. Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives.
The school district serving Orleans Parish was divided following the 2005 storms, with academically underperforming schools placed in the Recovery School District.
Orleans Parish School District debt is rated Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service and A-plus by Standard & Poor’s.