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EBR school district property in question

3 years ago May 11, 2012 May 11, 2012 Friday, May 11 2012 Friday, May 11, 2012 9:20:51 PM CDT in News
Source: WBRZ
By: Ashley Rodrigue

BATON ROUGE-  An effort to lessen the blow of budget cuts in East Baton Rouge Parish Schools is causing confusion.

The district is trying to sell excess land to make money, but there's a big question of what still belongs to the district to sell.

The land is Section 16 property, which was given to school districts by the federal government centuries ago.

The problem now?  The district isn't sure it still controls all 640 acres of the original land and they don't know how that happened.

The conversation started when the district began considering land to sell to help off-set its budget troubles. 

"We are definitely looking at our budget and there are two ways to reduce the budget," said EBR Schools Spokesman Chris Trahan, "One is to cut items and one is to increase income so what we're looking at is different pieces of property we have throughout the parish before we put them up on the market for potential sale."

One of those properties is on Highland Road between I-10 and Airline Highway.  But when board members got a map of the property, questions were raised about its size, and how it got so small, but the district didn't have answers.

EBR School Board Member Connie Bernard said, "My first thought was I'd like to know what happened to the rest of the land and I would like for our staff to be able to answer those questions."

That's what they're doing now.

"What we need to do is go out there, do the research, see the title but then also do some surveys and that way we can find out a fair price for that piece of land," said Trahan.

Similar steps were taken in Livingston Parish in recent years.  That research into Section 16 property revealed dozens of homes now built on the land and unclear title transfers for them, which has resulted in a lawsuit pitting the school district versus the homeowners.

But both EBR Schools and board members think the land, whatever is still in the district's name, will likely be in the clear for a sale or something else.

"We think that we won't have that much difficulty doing the research to find out who owns the legal property title because that land really isn't developed yet," said Trahan.

Bernard said, "It should be highly desirable land either for a school system or for a developer. We can trade that land, swap it for something more desirable."

The research on the land could take about two months.  The results will be given to the board before any decisions about sales are final.  There are three other properties the district is looking at selling without issue as well.

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