Subpar DBE Participation on $32 Million New Orleans School Facilities Project Must End
(New Orleans, LA—February 22, 2013) – Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) Vice President Leslie Ellison calls for increased participation among disadvantaged minority and women owned businesses following a special called meeting that took place this week to address the construction and financing of Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School via new market tax credits.
Ms. Ellison shares the following with the business and civic community regarding the new market tax credits:
“The Orleans Parish School Board voted to move forward with pursuing new market tax credits for the construction of Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School. These tax credits will provide OPSB with a total of $9 million for its treasury, which will allow us to build another school in the future.
“The previous board gave the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD) the authority, under the master plan, to oversee construction of the site. The Board’s decision could possibly prevent RSD from having to rebid the project, which could result in bids coming in at higher rates; this would save taxpayers’ dollars.”
Regarding DBE Participation, Ms. Ellison says:
“Revitalizing and reconstructing our education facilities are key priorities in educating our children. If approached with equity, the labor demands will create jobs for working class families and opportunities for minority and women owned businesses.
“In a separate topic of discussion regarding the Wheatley project, I also learned during the meeting that DBE contractors are providing about 2.82 percent of the work on the $32 million project, which includes demolition, environmental studies and construction. Gibbs Construction was awarded the majority of the contract in the amount of $25 million. This ratio is unacceptable and far below RSD’s goal of having 25% DBE participation on this new construction project.
“RSD’s commitment to work more closely with the Orleans Parish School Board and the business community to further increase minority participation is one step in the right direction but will require more aggressive applicability and enforcement of policy.
“There are approximately eight new construction projects that RSD will place up for bid in the forthcoming days. I can assure the minority and women owned businesses within and without my district that this is a priority issue for which I will continue to contend.”