By James Minton
October 16, 2012
CLINTON — The East Feliciana School Board’s Finance Committee voted Wednesday to support laying off enough school employees to offset a looming deficit resulting from a drop in enrollment.
The recommendation to begin the layoffs effective Oct. 31 goes to the full board for consideration at a special meeting Tuesday.
The school system adopted its budget for this fiscal year on state Minimum Foundation Program appropriations that were based on the Feb. 1 enrollment of 1,956 students. However, the Oct. 1 enrollment was 1,860 students, and Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said he expects the state to reduce the amount it sends to the parish at some point next year.
The loss of students works out to more than a $600,000 loss in state aid, but the board’s financial adviser, Tommy LeJeune, said deductions from East Feliciana’s appropriation for students attending outside schools under the Jindal administration’s school choice program will push the figure to about $680,000.
The board also will have to pay for accumulated leave and unemployment compensation costs for the affected personnel, and Lewis said his target for personnel reductions totals $830,000.
The state is deducting $58,000 from the MFP appropriations for 27 students attending virtual schools or schools outside of the parish, an amount equal to the local tax dollars that would be used to educate them in the parish.
Lewis said he is glad the board voted earlier this year to join a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law the state Legislature approved in April.
“It’s not fair to take money from East Feliciana to teach kids in another parish,” Lewis said.
A plan Lewis submitted last week envisions laying off one administrator, 10 teachers and eight support employees to reach the $830,000 target.
He said school principals have been meeting with him to look at class sizes and the categories of teachers each school has to determine the best way to lay off employees.
Lewis said the decisions on who to let go will be based on demand, performance and effectiveness.
“It’s obvious that our schools are over-staffed. It’s unfortunate that we’re addressing this in October and not in May,” he said.
Committee members also said they want the full board to review the cost of supporting the Slaughter Community Charter School, which opened last school year with seventh- and eighth-graders and added ninth-graders this year.