Feb 14, 2012 12:51 AM by Jim Hummel
At a public forum Monday night, the St. Landry United Coalition of Educators (SLUCE) outlined what representatives called wasteful spending and mismanagement of funds by the St. Landry Parish School Board.
As we've been reporting for several months, the board is facing a nearly $4-million budget shortfall this year and the current administration is proposing a number of measures to close the gap. Those measures include furloughs, cuts to medical insurance benefits, and reducing substitute teachers. The school board is expected to take action on those proposals at Thursday's meeting.
Ahead of this week's board meeting, SLUCE representatives wanted to reveal the results of their months-long investigation of central office finances. At last month's meeting, SLUCE was given access to more than 4,000 pages of central office records and invoices. Using that information representatives say they've uncovered "severe issues" with the school board's budget deficit.
"The entire deficit is a lot of careless spending," said SLUCE spokesman Ricky Julien. "There were a few instances of possible mismanagement, there were a few instances of not going through the proper channels to get things approved, some things went without bids, there were a number of things that could have been looked at procedure-wise that could have saved a lot of money."
Through their investigation, SLUCE representatives found more than $2.5-million dollars, which they say was improperly spent. According to SLUCE, among that money was an extra $1-million spent on construction costs for the re-roofing of the pupil appraisal center. SLUCE representatives say it's money that was not in the budget for the project and was spent at the discretion of superintendent Michael Nassif, without board approval.
Also among the alleged improper spending were thousands of dollars in grocery costs, which SLUCE representatives say was spent on prison trusties. There were also concerns about travel expenses and attorney fees.
SLUCE representatives are urging the public to attend the school board meeting on Thursday, which as of Monday night is expected to be held at 4:00 p.m. at the school board office on Creswell Lane in Opelousas. However, several school board members, are expected to meet with interim superintendent Donnie Perron Tuesday, to discuss a change of venue to accommodate a larger crowd. SLUCE reports a similar, previous request was denied.