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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

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Attorney: Lafourche School Board needs law change to reduce size

Attorney: Lafourche School Board needs law change to reduce size

The Lafourche Parish School Board needs a law change to reduce its size to save money, board members were told last week.

At the board’s meeting, Patrick Amedee, the board’s attorney, presented past examples of school boards that reduced their size.

“The bottom line is, I think it can most certainly be done, and it can be done legally and defensively,” Amedee said.

He wouldn’t recommend voting on a reduction in size or sending it to an election yet because he is not sure it would have legal ground.

“My opinion and my legal advice would be don’t do that, because I think statutorily you are bound to be a 15-member (board) until you statutorily change it.”

Amedee said the state Department of Justice would also have to sign off on a reduction in size.

If the board decides it wants to reduce its size by 2019, when a new board will be elected, it may be best to go down to nine to reflect the City Council’s boundaries and increase the odds of the Department of Justice signing off on the reduction, he said.

Attempting a reduction after the 2020 census data would allow the board to reduce the size to a different number, he added.

“Then you could change the size to whatever size you wanted,” Amedee said. “It could be 11, it could be seven, it could be nine. If it was nine, you wouldn’t have to match the districts with the council. It would seem to make sense if you would, but you would not be obliged to do that.”

Last year, the board discussed a reduction to save money to address decreasing state dollars and tax revenues as well as rising costs. If the board drops by four members, it would directly save more than $39,000 per year, Business Manager Don Gaudet said. The number rises to more than $58,000 if it drops six members and more than $77,000 if it drops eight.

But critics of the idea say 15 is the right number for the length of the parish -- almost 100 miles from top to bottom. Others say that consolidating the board could potentially leave areas like Chackbay and south Lafourche underrepresented.

-- Staff Writer Garrett Ohlmeyer can be reached at (985) 850-1149 or Follow him on Twitter @GOhlmeyer.