State AG: Earlier Opinion Does Not Apply To School Board Tax Proposal (UPDATE)
In a new letter sent to Lafayette Parish School Board Members, State Attorney General Jeff Landry's office says an earlier opinion that the school board cited in its original proposal does not apply. It all comes down to IF the money would be dedicated or now. The earlier opinion, the district argued, meant funds would be dedicated to the project of replacing portable buildings and other facility upgrades. Landry did not issue an opinion on this specific proposal, but sources we spoke to said the letter limits the likelihood of the tax passing. It appears to all come down to the language of the ballot proposition and the assertion that funds could be used "...for any lawful purpose..." Board members have said they were advised that the language had to be included in the proposal and were limited by the number of words they could use.
This letter obtained by KPEL News was sent to the Lafayette Parish School Board from the Attorney General's office:
It has come to my attention that the Board through you as its Members has made certain assertions about a tax proposal (the Proposal) to be voted on this Saturday, April 29, 2017. Specifically, in an opinion letter to the Daily Advertiser, you made assurances that the Proposal has been written in such a way that solely dedicates the funds collected to the purposes outlined in "Resolution No. 01-17-1896" (the Resolution).
You referred the reader to Louisiana Attorney General's Opinion Number 98-421 (the Opinion) to support your proposition that, because a specific project or set of projects is referenced in the resolution, the funds are solely dedicated to that project or set of projects. I write today in the interest of assuring voters are correctly informed of that Opinion's implications.
There is a key facial difference between the language contemplated in the Opinion and the language of the Proposal. Specifically, the Proposal's language empowering expenditure for "any lawful purpose" is absent from the language considered by this office in the Opinion. The Opinion does not stand for the proposition that the mention of a specific project in the language of the resolution automatically binds those funds exclusively to that purpose regardless of the resolution's language as a whole.
The effect of the language purporting to limit expenditures under the Proposal to the terms of the resolution is not opined on at this time. It is sufficient to note that the "any lawful purpose" language of the Proposal draws an important difference from the language contemplated under the Opinion. The Opinion should not be read to support the proposition that the funds to be collect pursuant to the Proposal will be dedicated solely to the plans or projects reference therein.
According to one board member, with the election on Saturday, the tax cannot be pulled and the language cannot be altered at this time.
We will update when we get additional information.