AMITE — The Tangipahoa Parish School Board must cut more than $8 million from the 2012-2013 budget, but employee furloughs are off the table, Superintendent Mark Kolwe said Monday.
Other measures, such as increasing class sizes, reducing salaries for starting teachers or dipping below a board-mandated minimum balance in the general fund, are still on the table, Kolwe said during a districtwide meeting.
About 60 people attended the meeting, billed as a “financial summit,” to discuss the system’s projected shortfall. Teachers, support staff and school administrators were invited to the meeting, Kolwe said.
“Furloughs are not on the table right now,” Kolwe said. Earlier this year, school administrators discussed the possibility of instituting a three-day furlough similar to what neighboring Livingston Parish had in place for the 2011-2012 school year.
Bret Schnadelbach, chief financial officer for the Tangipahoa Parish school system, gave a short presentation in which he attributed the district’s budget woes to increased retirement contribution costs, health-care costs and frozen state funding through the Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP.
Tangipahoa Parish ranks 63rd in Louisiana in local revenue generated per pupil, Schnadelbach said. The district receives $2,137 in local revenue per pupil, while the state average is $4,533, Schnadelbach said.
In April 2011, parish voters rejected by overwhelming margins four tax proposals that would have funded the construction of six new schools and school operations as part of the district’s court-ordered desegregation plan.
Currently, the only parishwide property tax that funds schools is the constitutional millage, set at 4.06 mills.
Increasing the class sizes would have a negative impact on test scores in core subjects, said Mona Icamena, a representative of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.
Another option for the school system is to freeze the salaries of new hires, Schnadelbach said. The average teacher salary in Tangipahoa Parish is $47,672, he said.
“Our salaries are in the middle of the pack while our revenues are at the very bottom,” Schnadelbach said. “The difference is what’s making it really hard to balance the budget.”
The parish school system will have a $10.3 million balance in its general fund at the end of the current school year June 30, according to the district. According to board policy, the general fund cannot dip below seven percent of the $132 million general fund budget, or about $9.24 million.
The school system has already suspended extended medical and professional leaves, as well as annual employee pay increases, known as step raises. The measures will save the school system approximately $2 million for the 2012-2013 school year.
The School Board has until Sept. 15 to approve a 2012-2013 budget, Kolwe said.