Superintendent: State auditor wants more cuts to fix deficit
OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish School Board voted narrowly at a brief, special meeting Thursday to halt all further employee layoffs, at least temporarily.
After the board’s 6-5 decision, acting Superintendent Joseph Cassimere said the state Legislative Auditor’s Office, which is monitoring the district’s financial situation, has been pleased with the School Board’s attempt to reduce a projected $3.9 million deficit except in the area of employee reductions.
“They would like to see more layoffs,” Cassimere said.
On June 7, the board voted 7-4 to cut 68 positions that affected primarily nurses, teachers of English as a second language and teacher’s aides.
A number of school librarians also were included on the list, but those employees probably will more back into the classroom, Cassimere said.
The cuts are expected to save the district about $3.3 million, board members were told.
Board attorney Gerard Caswell advised the School Board against voting to dismiss one more worker at Thursday’s meeting, since that employee, a central office payroll data processor, was not given a 10-day dismissal notice, according to board policy.
The board approved Cassimere’s recommendation to put that worker’s job category on a list to be laid off, but that was on June 7, Casssimere reminded the board Thursday.
Cassimere said another employee from another job category, also was recommended to be laid off Thursday, but that individual has resigned.
Ricky Julien, representing the St. Landry Coalition of Teachers, said during the meeting’s public comment period that he feels the board’s decisions concerning which employees are laid off has been ruled primarily by political favoritism.
“You are starting to trickle back into that good old boy system,” Julien said.
Julien said some workers with less experience that others were retained during the June 7 vote, while others who have worked more years have been laid off.
“If cuts have to be made, then that’s understood. However you can’t continue to lay off good people,” Julien told the board.
Board member Anthony Standberry said halting any further staff reductions is a matter of “disrespect” to those who have been laid off.
Standberry said state officials, including those in the Legislative Auditor’s Office who are watching St. Landry’s handling of its finances, are confused and concerned about the board’s reluctance to lay off more workers.
Earlier this year, school officials said the district’s workforce needed to be reduced by at least 182 workers in order to help balance the district’s operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
On Thursday, Casssimere said the school system could save more money in the area of salaries than initially anticipated, since 92 workers have indicated they plan to retire.
“Of that number, I would guess that 30 percent of those (retirees) won’t be replaced,” Cassimere said.
Cassimere said he’s unsure how the board’s action to postpone any more employee cuts will affect the budget.
“The board is the one that makes the decisions,” he said.
Voting to halt any more layoffs were: Candace Gerace, Ronald Carriere, Huey Wyble, Scott Richard, Roger Young and Kyle Boss.
Those voting “no” were Standberry, Charles Ross, Raymond Cassimere, Quincy Richard and Josie Frank.
John Miller and Harry Fruge did not attend the meeting.