EBR school budget remains under review

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday night plans to resume discussion about its 2013-14 operating budget, but is not planning a vote on it until at least early August, more than a month later than the board typically approves its budget.
The "workshop" is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at the School Board Office, 1050 S. Foster Drive.
The board voted 6-4 last week to put off approving the budget, asking instead for a workshop, which was finally announced Tuesday afternoon.
Board President David Tatman said he won't be able to attend Thursday's meeting, but he's not one who wants more time.
"I've had the budget for two months. I feel like I'm pretty familiar with it," Tatman said.
He said he wants the board to vote on the budget on Aug. 1, but wants to first see how the discussion goes Thursday before he schedules another attempt at a vote.
The general fund budget, which now clocks in at $422.4 million, was originally presented in late May, but has languished while some board members and Superintendent Bernard Taylor have argued alternately about whether Taylor is spending too much overall, while not spending enough in key areas.
Among the flashpoints are freezing teacher salaries while giving technology personnel pay raises, Taylor's revamping of student discipline, changing schools in the Scotlandville area and dipping too deeply into reserves.
The budget picture brightened in early June when the state Legislature agreed to a more generous school funding formula. Taylor decided to postpone debate in June in part to revise the budget to capture some of that additional revenue.
That revised budget includes $3 million more in revenue and $2.2 million less in spending. It unfreezes employee salaries so that they can get a step increase at a cost of $1.8 million.
The new budget draws less from reserves - $14.2 million versus $19.5 million - and anticipates that $12.5 million will be left over at the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year.
School budget officials say they expect even more money from the state soon thanks to a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling in May that found that the state unconstitutionally diverted money from public schools to fund private school vouchers. That extra money, however, won't bring spending and revenue in line.
"I feel that it is inherently wrong to exceed to your revenue," said board member Connie Bernard, who has been among the most outspoken in questioning the budget.
Bernard said she'd like to see Taylor scale back some of his spending plans, including opening fewer disciplinary centers.
Tatman, however, said he sees dipping into reserves as inevitable, but plans to keep watch on spending through this school year. "I would like to see us be very judicious about how we do that," he said.