Lafayette School Board reviews budget

Lafayette Parish School Board members Tuesday questioned nearly $700,000 in spending related to portable buildings and other proposed operational expenses while discussing the proposed 2013-14 budget.

The School Board leases 29 portable buildings at a cost of $332,550 and at least $370,000 was factored into the budget to set up and move at least six portable buildings based on changing student populations.

Board member Kermit Bouillion said over the years, the money spent on portables could have been invested into new schools.

“When you look at it, that’s $700,000 every year; over 10 years — we’d have over $7 million ... One day, (I) hope (we) focus on all this money going into portable buildings,” Bouillion said.

District Chief Financial Officer Billy Guidry said the district estimates the expense of moving six portable buildings, but fewer buildings could be moved, reducing the cost, depending on population needs.

A community education plan committee of volunteers and district employees is reviewing facilities needs and funding mechanisms to pay for improvements and construction as well as educational programming.

Guidry said the committee has discussed the district’s reliance on portable buildings and additional funding would be needed to replace the portable buildings with permanent buildings.

During Tuesday’s budget workshop, the board reviewed its funds related to buildings and transportation, special revenues from grants and other sources, sales tax and nutrition services. A second workshop is planned for 4 p.m. May 14 to review the general fund, which includes instructional costs.

The district is starting with an estimated $12 million shortfall based on increased expenses related to employer retirement contributions and reduced state and federal revenues, Guidry said.

Last year, the district started with a $10 million shortfall and during workshops, board members reduced the cut by about $6 million and used its reserve fund to close the deficit.

“This is the third year we’re doing this kind of stuff, so it’s going to be much more difficult to get it down at all ... There’s only so much to cut,” Guidry said.

Board member Tommy Angelle told Guidry he would prefer to see a balanced budget.

“We’re going to present what we feel would result in a balanced budget,” Guidry said. “You can decide if that’s something agreeable to you.”

Some board members also questioned another $250,000 in the budget for a teen parenting program planned next school year at Northside High School and related costs associated with the set-up and improvements to the portable buildings.

District Facilities and Planning Director Kyle Bordelon said improvements may be needed to comply with licensing requirements to provide child care to teen mothers in the program.

District officials said the teen parenting program was approved in the first year of the district’s turnaround plan in 2012, but its implementation was postponed until the 2013-14 school year.

Superintendent Pat Cooper said the early childhood education program is needed to prevent teen mothers from dropping out of school and to ensure their children are prepared for kindergarten.

To view the proposed expenditures, visit http://esb.lpssonline.com.