By Heidi R. Kinchen
Florida Parishes bureau
February 20, 2013
LIVINGSTON — The population numbers included in the Livingston Parish School Board’s reapportionment plan are flawed and “don’t add up,” but have been approved already by the U.S. Department of Justice, the board’s attorney said Thursday.
The School Board’s plan is based on data compiled when the Livingston Parish Council was designing its redistricting plan, board attorney Tom Jones told the School Board.
The Justice Department has approved the Parish Council’s plan and, thus, the numbers on which it is based, Jones said. There is a good chance the numbers will survive the approval process again when the School Board’s plan is submitted next week, he said.
“But I didn’t want to submit it in your name without first advising you of the issues,” he said.
Those issues include discrepancies between precinct population totals and the numbers when those populations are broken down by race, registered voter totals that exceed the number of people over age 18 and eligible to vote, and unexplained deviations in voter registration percentages among precincts, Jones said.
“The numbers just don’t match. They don’t add up, and I can’t make them add up,” he said.
Jones said he met with the Secretary of State Tom Schedler on Thursday to discuss the discrepancies, and the secretary could not explain them either.
“He said ‘Good luck with
that,’ ” Jones said.
The total population numbers are the easiest data to gather and likely correct, so the balance of populations among School Board districts is probably close to target, Jones said.
“I think y’all are fine on the equal representation front. That’s not the issue,” he said.
Board member Buddy Mincey Jr. said if the board’s district boundaries are correct, the overall population numbers are good and the numbers have already been accepted by the Justice Department, then the board should move forward with submittal.
The only other option, Jones said, would be to hire a demographer to figure out the correct numbers and adjust the board’s plan accordingly.
“We’ve spent so much time already getting this ready,” Mincey said. “I say we go ahead and submit it.”
The board would have 60 days to fix any problems the Justice Department may have with the plan, he said.
Other business before the School Board included:
ANNUAL AUDIT: The board received a clean and unqualified audit opinion, the highest possible, for 2011-12.
Accountants with Hannis T. Bourgeois LLC found no questioned costs, deficiencies in internal controls over financial reporting or compliance, or instances of noncompliance required to be reported, according to a report presented to the School Board on Thursday night.
“Y’all had some very tough decisions to make this year, and I believe you made them ahead of time so that you were able to come out with a surplus,” accountant Ferdie Genre said. “Your accounting department deserves credit for getting you that information in a timely manner.”