Avoyelles School Disrict Section 16 camp lease issue once again hot topic
After a short cease-fire, the battle over whether Section 16 campsite leases are too high, too low or just right has resumed.
The Avoyelles School Board has been wrestling with the question of obtaining a new appraisal on which to base its campsite leases.
The issue was brought up by those who believe the campsite prices are too high.
Board members have noted that property leases have to be based on a fair market appraisal or the board could incur the wrath of the Legislative Auditor -- which demands public bodies sell, lease or rent its properties and equipment for at least the fair market value.
During discussion on a new appraisal, it was pointed out that if the appraisal is higher, the board will have to raise the lease prices.
After two months of asking, there has been only one appraiser who has submitted a price to do a new one. Quotes are due by the July 16.
SEVEN NEW MEMBERS
At the Building and Lands Committee meeting on June 18, local radio talk show host André Caubarreaux called on the board to correct a “past wrong” and “lead Avoyelles in a new direction.”
Seven of the nine board members were not on the board when the issue boiled over in 2015. Only Van Kojis from Bunkie and Chris LaCour of Bordelonville were involved in those debates.
Some believe the Section 16 leases and related hunting permit requirement played a part in the large turnover on the board. Others blame the board’s denial of a new charter school’s application to be included in the school system.
That school, Red River Charter, was approved by the Board of Elementary & Secondary Education and will open with grades 6-8 in the former Mansura High School complex in August.
Caubarreaux said Spring Bayou leases “are overpriced and based on an unrealistic appraisal. There are more vacant lots than there are occupied lots because the annual price is too high.”
Caubarreaux, who owns Titan Value Equities Group investment planning company, said the issue comes down to “simple economics: lower the price and lease more.
“Charging less could mean more overall revenue,” he continued. “They have to realize the true market value and be fair with those who have invested in camps.
“The new board could turn sour grapes into a win-win opportunity,” he added.
There is another faction of outdoors sportsmen who would like to see the camp lease prices increased to reduce the number of campers on the 16th Sections. In short, it would reduce the number of hunters on the 16th Sections.
Those who don’t hunt or use the 16th Sections have said the School Board should do whatever it takes to make the most money possible from those properties.
There are 153 campsite lots. A campsite is generally 100x100 ft., although the sites at Old River are of varied sizes.
EIGHT 16th SECTIONS
There are eight 16th Sections in the parish. Five have campsites and three are completely leased to hunting clubs.
The board was considering reducing the costs of hunting permits from $200 to $25, but rejected the committee recommendation at the July 2 board meeting.
Camp owners receive two free permits with their lease.
There are very few permits being sold since state game wardens will not write citations for hunting without a permit on board property unless the hunter is also guilty of another violation.
In April 2015, a group of investors offered to lease the five 16th Section tracts for a total of $291,628 a year for five years -- a guarantee of almost $1.5 million over that period.
The lease payments are dedicated to capital improvements in the schools.
The investors’ offer would have paid $79,599 a year for the Spring Bayou tract and $22,431 a year each for the Saline Lake, Lake Long, Garfish Bayou and Muscle Lake sections.
It has been pointed out that hunting camps and hunting club memberships -- which would be equivalent to the board-issued permit -- cost much more than the board’s leases and permits.