Jul 10, 2014 11:40 PM by Tina Macias and Alex Labat

LPSB slows budget progress during heated meeting

The Lafayette Parish School Board still has a multi-million budget shortfall but it did cut about $346,000 during its 5-hour budget meeting.

Those cuts included:
- $332,483 in National Board Certification stipends to social workers, psychologists, speech therapists and teachers who were certified before July 2013.
- About $112,000 in small cuts to cell phones, travel, conferences and dues.
- An additional $98,000 was added to deficit when the board decided to re-funded some Acadiana Center for the Arts and museum trips.

The board is still facing a more than $7 million budget shortfall.

The meeting began with the board rejecting a balanced budget from superintendent Pat Cooper, which would have dipped into the teacher bonus portion of the 2002 sales tax. Board members pointed out that they have repeatedly struck down that option, and things got heated from there.

Board member Tehmi Chassion told Cooper he was "offended" by Cooper's comments during his budget presentation. Cooper told board members they don't care about the children of Lafayette Parish if they don't approve a budget soon.

Later, board member Shelton Cobb accused board member Chassion of "crawfishing," a Cajun term referring to someone backing down.

Chassion had said he's reconsidering using the board's rainy-day fund to cover some of the deficit, but then voted down a motion to use it, saying he wanted to make more cuts first.

The board ended the meeting without making final decisions about staffing cuts, which was criticized with just a few weeks left until the new school year begins.

The next budget meeting is set for 4 p.m. Tuesday.



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