Board could tweak remap - St. Charles school plan contains error

Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) - Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Author: Jennifer Boquet River Parishes bureau

The St. Charles Parish School Board will consider revising its previously adopted redistricting plan when it meets tonight. 

The board adopted the plan, which must be reworked every 10 years based on the U.S. census, in January. 

But Kevin Belanger, chief executive officer of the South Central Planning and Development Commission, said there was a problem with the adopted plan because two precincts, one on each bank of the river, were divided into three School Board districts. However, precincts are allowed to be divided into only two districts. 

Belanger said it's a problem he expected to be fixed through Senate Bill 99, introduced during the past legislative session, that allows local governing authorities to consolidate precincts. However, attempts to get the change were unsuccessful. 

"As part of that legislation we tried to add an amendment that allowed a parish and school board to join together so you can clean up voting precinct issues before submitting your plan," he said during School Board committee meetings on Monday. 

Because the change was not made, he said the School Board had three options: to adopt an amended plan, to file a lawsuit against the Louisiana secretary of state's office to get the law changed, or to put off adopting a plan until after next year's legislative session to see whether the law could be changed then. 

Belanger also presented the board with three alternatives to revise its original plan if board members chose the first option. 

"As a consultant to you, I would suggest picking one of the plans on each side (of the river)," he said. "The changes are very small compared to what we began with." 

Board members agreed that revising the plan was the best solution, and tonight they will introduce an amended redistricting plan that makes small changes to the original plan. The changes would affect about 40 residents on the west bank who would be shifted into the 1st District. 

On the east bank, the 5th District would be changed to once again include Bar None Ranch subdivision, which was taken out of the district in the first adopted plan. 

After introducing the amended plan, the board will have to conduct a public hearing on it, likely in June, before it can be considered for adoption. 

Also on tonight's agenda is the adoption of a revised budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30. The revised budget shows an increase in revenue from the previous budget of nearly $4.7 million and a decrease in expenditures of about $556,000. 

Board members will also consider for first reading an amendment to its policy for public participation at meetings. The change would delete a provision in the policy that allows a member of the public to address the board informally without providing prior notice at the discretion of the president at the end of the meeting.