By Vincent Grisby
Celebration was in the air at the Lincoln Parish School Board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 10, of this week. The general public packed the meeting room to the point of overflow as the school board recognized this year’s student and teacher of the year and held elections for 2023’s officers.
The school board considered several items of new business, including a motion conveying support for an annual payment-in-lieu-of-tax agreement on property taxes for 20 years between the Industrial Development Board (IDB) of the City of Ruston and CSMS Management, LLC. This agreement is in anticipation of a proposed Bucc-ee’s location in Ruston, the first such location in Louisiana.
“We’ve worked closely with Mayor Walker in the last several months to put together a package, and [the school board is] a small part of that, to try to bring the Buc-ee’s Travel Center here to Ruston, which I think would be a great thing for us,” said LPSB superintendent Ricky Durrett as he introduced the motion.
He went on to state that the new location would represent “an estimated fifty million dollar investment in our town, bringing about two hundred full-time jobs here.”
As written, the agreement would functionally allow Buc-ee’s to avoid paying property taxes altogether for the first twenty years of the proposed location’s operation. Possible rebates on sales tax were also discussed between the IDB and CSMS Management. However, these proposals were ultimately canned since, according to Mr. Durrett, granting such a rebate would have had a seriously adverse effect on the Minimum Foundation Program which provides funding for pupils in the parish.
Following the superintendent’s introduction, Stan Beard, director of real estate for Buc-ee’s was allowed address the board. Mr. Beard thanked the community for its accommodation, he emphasized the benefits that Buc-ee’s had to offer Ruston:
“We want to make a statement here as the first Buc-ee’s in Louisiana, and we could not have found a better partner than the better of Ruston, the school district, and the police jury”.
Looking to assuage concerns raised by one member of the public regarding potential lost revenue due to the 20-year property tax agreement, Mr. Durrett had these assurances to offer:
“Right now on that property we’re getting about 68 dollars in property taxes….I don’t think we’re losing anything, because we aren’t getting much at the present time.” Mr. Durrett further explained that the potential sales tax on the estimated 40 million dollars per year in revenue the proposed location could generate, would more than compensate for the loss.
In a night of celebratory remarks, former state sentaor Gerald Long struck the most triumphant note by far:
“What you’re doing tonight is creating not only an opportunity for this one entity, you’re creating an opportunity for years to come for this entire community. You want grow that’s sustainable, clean, and will keep people here in town in the community. You have all of that in this one place; this will go down in the history of Ruston and Lincoln Parish as one of the bright stars that’s ever shined in this community.”
The motion passed with unanimous support. The potential Ruston Buc-ee’s would be the 44th Buc-ee’s location in the country, and the first Buc-ee’s location in Louisiana.
The school board also adopted a motion approving a renewable, one-year Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with the Ruston High School Educational Support Fund. The fund, overseen by Chris Meyer would allow businesses to make tax-deductible donations for educational support projects at Ruston High School. According to Mr. Durrett, the fund would report financials for every project proposed, and the school board would require possible projects to proceed only if the necessary funding was available. The proposal would also allow the school board to perform audits to ensure the availability of funds for projects. The motion passed with unanimous support.
The board adopted several other motions with unanimous support, including an addendum to the pupil progression plan supporting 3rd and 4th grade students who scored below grade level, and a request to declare surplus property for warranty-expired chromebooks brought during the COVID-19 pandemic. All motions passed with unanimous support.