Staff and News Service Report
The new Delta Community College campus on Lake D’Arbonne, announced barely three months ago, has been scuttled by Gov. Jeff Landry’s new administration, according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.
The $18 million campus that could provide a much-needed injection of capital improvement dollars to the parish, not to mention dramatically improved educational opportunities, was not wholly abandoned but was downgraded to the lowest possible priority along with several other projects. In all, nearly $300 million in capital outlay projects were downgraded by Landry’s Interim Emergency Board.
Delta functions under the umbrella of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS), and a spokesman for the system said the Farmerville campus is still a viable project.
W. Chandler LeBoeuf, the system’s Interim Vice President of Education, said, “The funding for the campus in Union Parish remains a priority. We continue to be engaged in ongoing efforts to collaborate with the delegation and officials to make this project happen for the people and the community served by Louisiana Delta Community College.”
In June 2023, largely as a result of the efforts of the Union Growth and Development Foundation working with Sen. Stewart Cathey and Rep. Chris Turner, the legislature included funding for a campus in Farmerville, but the critical “line of credit” necessary to move the project off the drawing board had not been approved before Landry’s team made their decision.
State law allows the Interim Emergency Board — comprised of the governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, Senate president, House speaker, and representatives from the Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees — to make adjustments with approval from a majority of lawmakers in both chambers.
The process allows for modifying the scope of a project or changing the priority of general obligation bond proceeds for specific projects. The IEB can also change the recipient agency for line items if the agency impacted consents.
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor last week issued a status update to legislative leaders on the current year capital outlay budget.
“The largest recipient of funding was state government entities, which were appropriated $8.5 billion.”
Non-state and local government recipients were slated to receive $2.6 billion, while non-government entities were budgeted $476.6 million.
“In November 2023, the IEB met and approved $293.7 million in priority changes, impacting 98 projects,” the report read. “A majority of both houses of the Legislature subsequently approved these changes by remote balloting.”
The edits moved $158.16 million in funding for state agencies from priority 1 to priority 5, $122.56 million in local priority 1 funding to priority 5, and $12.97 million in priority 1 funding for non-government agencies to priority 5.
The 794-page report includes a breakdown of all projects and those impacted by the changes, which bring the budget in line with limits on cash lines of credit in Act 465.
“For projects receiving appropriations of general obligation bond proceeds (Priority 1, 2, and 5), the enactment of this appropriation in the capital outlay act is not the last step needed for the project to receive capital outlay funding,” auditors wrote. “General obligation bond appropriations are not funded until the receive lines of credit. Lines of credit must be approved by the State Bond Commission bore recipient entities can (ink) contracts and pay project expenses from their general obligation bond appropriations.”