Education

May 21, 2013 10:03 PM by Tina Macias

Lafayette schools still facing budget deficit

It is likely that fewer teachers and assistant principals will serve Lafayette schools next year and the majority of the turnaround plan's year 2 programs will be postponed, but the Lafayette Parish School System still faces a $4.1 million shortfall.

It still is unclear how that deficit will be covered next year, even after the school board's third budget workshop came to a close tonight.

Although board members said they are not interested in using their rainy-day fund to cover that shortfall, they gave no further directive to school system staff.

Deep cuts -- including adding two students to every classroom, implementing a 1-mile walk zone for bus riders -- were presented to board members as possible ways to close that budget hole.

They took no action those recommendations. A $12 million budget shortfall already has been shaved down by including the following in the proposed $400 million 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

Superintedent Pat Cooper encouraged board members to use the rainy day fund instead of making additional cuts. He reminded the board that although it used $4.8 million of that fund this year, all of that will be recovered by increased sales tax revenue.

Traditionally, the budget now moves on to its finalization stages without any more dramatic changes, said CFO Billy Guidry, but the board could veer from the ordinary. The next budget meeting is scheduled for May 28. The board will vote on the budget in June. The fiscal year begins July 1.

The tough budget situation has been blamed on less state and federal funding and increased retirement costs, which has been ongoing for years.

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