CLINTON — The East Feliciana Parish School Board voted Tuesday to eliminate twenty positions in the school district by the end of the month.
Board member Debra Spurlock-Haynes cast the lone dissenting vote.
The board’s finance committee recommended the staff cutbacks as a way to address an $800,000 budget deficit caused by a drop in student enrollment.
Tommy LeJeune, the board’s financial adviser, said the budget and hiring for the fall was based on 2011-2012 enrollment numbers, but as of Oct. 1, enrollment had dropped by 100 students. The enrollment drop meant a loss of $650,000 in state Minimum Foundation Program funds, he said.
The remaining $150,000 in the $800,000 budget deficit represents projected cost of layoffs including unemployment benefits, LeJeune said.
School Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said school administrators have identified possible areas for reduction in personnel but are waiting for state approval on some of the proposed eliminations. He said he expected to be able to move some teachers into vacant positions that are currently funded through grant money.
“Even though the number is twenty (positions to be eliminated), by working with grants and moving people within the district, it will not be twenty people that will go home. But twenty positions will be eliminated,” Lewis said.
He added that, since some of the grants are slated to expire in the spring, the issue will have to be revisited.
Spurlock-Haynes asked whether the finance committee had considered other options to cover the shortfall.
LeJeune said the majority of the school district’s budget is in personnel costs.
“That’s the only way to find the numbers we are looking for. We have already done some work in other areas,” he said.
In a related decision, the board voted to look into the possibility of being relieved of the financial burden of the Slaughter Community Charter School, which opened last school year with seventh- and eighth-graders and added ninth-graders this year.
Board members Benjamin Cupit, Paul Kent and Mitchell Harrell voted against the measure.
LeJeune said that the charter school currently costs the school district $1.1 million in loss of MFP funds and sales tax revenue, but that the figure could climb to $3 million in the future. “We will have a bigger obligation in the coming years. It will impact the budget and we need to plan for it,” he said.
Slaughter Community Charter School Board member Chrissie O’Quin said that according to the board’s own research, the charter school doesn’t cause the school district to lose MFP funds. “Over 60 percent of the students in the charter school weren’t from East Feliciana Parish schools. They were from private schools or stayed with relatives outside the parish. You wouldn’t have gotten that money anyway.”
“This isn’t about wanting to close the charter school. We want you to succeed but we need to succeed too,” Harrell said.