May 28, 2013 11:01 PM by Tina Macias

Lafayette school board makes more budget cuts

The Lafayette Parish School Board got a step closer to balancing its $400 million budget after it ended its fourth budget meeting tonight.

The board cut its $4.16 million deficit to $3.3 million, but chose to put off consideration of the bulk of its budget, the general fund, until Monday.

The budget that funds Lafayette schools is actually made up of a dozen separate funds, and the board considered most of them tonight. It removed funding from the following projects and applied the savings to its general fund deficit:
- $353,000 for a new key system that would have made it so keys could not be duplicated by locksmiths, but only school systems staff
-$450,000 for wireless computer upgrades needed for new standardized tests. The board said it will fund that project next year when and if sales tax revenue exceeds projections, as it has done for three years.
-$205,351 for to renovate a building at Northside High School for a teen parenting program.
-$1.07 million of the $1.9 million earmarked for renovations at the W.D. Smith Career Center
-$320,000 for playground resurfacing and equipment at Truman Montessori.

That would have saved about $2.39 million, but the board also reversed a central office staff recommendation to fund $1.2 million in annual teacher raises, or step increases, through the 2002 sales tax fund. That would have cut into teachers' annual bonus, commonly called the 13th check. 

The board voted to fund annual teacher raises will be funded as usual, through the general fund, which cut into some of the progress they made tonight and made their total savings equal about $1.19 million.

The board still has about $3.3 million to cut from the deficit, or it could dip into its rainy day fund, something the majority of board members said they would like to avoid.

The budget crunch has been blamed on unfunded mandates from the state, higher retirement costs and less funding for the state and federal governments.

Before tonight's meeting, A $12 million budget shortfall already has been shaved down by including the following in the proposed budget:
- Eliminating 90 teacher positions, which will be covered by resignations and retirements
- Eliminating 7-10 assistant principal position, causing some schools to lose or share an assistant principal
- Suspending the majority of the Turnaround Plan's Year 2 programs, including funding additional nurses and mental health professionals, lowering class size and expanding immersion programs.
- Increasing health insurance premiums
-Cutting central office budgets by 2 percent.

After its next budget meeting Monday, the board is set to make its final vote on the budget on June 19. The fiscal year begins July 1.


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