By Terry L. Jones
September 11, 2012
PLAQUEMINE — The Iberville Parish School Board on Monday unanimously approved the district’s $98 million operating budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which includes a projected shortfall of about $865,000 in the general fund.
The general fund budget covers the district’s education programs, various services and the salaries and benefits of its administrative staff and faculty. According to the budget, the board expects to spend approximately $42.2 million out of its general fund and collect $41.3 million.
Chief Financial Officer Jolain Landry said the budget shortfall was due to stagnant revenue streams from property taxes, projected declines in sales tax revenue, increasing employee benefit costs and the completion of the district’s construction program.
“Our overall goal is to make conservative assumptions that may underestimate the amount of revenues that will be collected and overestimate the amount of employee benefits that will be spent,” Landry said.
The general fund will experience about a $400,000 decrease in sales tax revenue compared with the previous fiscal year, Landry said, and the district will lose another $365,000 in stimulus funds that helped to pay teachers last year.
This year the state is forcing the district to contribute an additional 0.8 percent toward teachers retirement funds and another 2.2 percent toward the retirement accounts for school employees, she added.
Landry said benefit costs have increased by 28 percent over the past three years from $7.9 million in 2009 to an expected $11.1 million in 2012. Salaries and benefits account for 87.1 percent of the general fund budget, she said.
Landry said several other factors affecting the general fund balance include $3.5 million for ongoing construction, a $1.4 million one-time maintenance expenditure and nearly $3 million in recurring costs for support services.
During a public hearing before the board’s vote Monday, Iberville resident Billy Dunn urged the board to look at ways of curtailing its spending in the immediate future.
“Are we still on target to be one of the top 15 districts in the state in 2015?” Dunn asked the board. “If not, were spending a lot of money.”