West Feliciana schools end year with surplus

Better-than-expected sales tax collections, an increase in state aid and budget cuts helped the West Feliciana Parish school system end the 2012-13 fiscal year with a surplus, School Board members learned Tuesday.

Instead of having to dip into a “rainy day” fund to the tune of $500,000 as expected, the district ended the fiscal year June 30 with revenues topping expenses in the general fund by $988,353, Finance Director Helen “Ruthie” Davis said.

The board’s general fund received $125,542 more in sales tax revenues than anticipated in the fiscal year’s fourth quarter, and a half-cent sales tax dedicated to specific purposes came in with nearly $200,000 more than budgeted, Davis said.

“That was a gift,” Davis said, adding that an enrollment increase of 32 students during the school year helped bring in $252,164 more in state aid through the Minimum Foundation Program.

“This was a gift; we haven’t gained students like this in a long time,” she said.

The board also instituted spending freezes in the early spring, including eliminating some teaching positions.

A total of $738,780 from the surplus will be placed in the “rainy day fund,” which can be used only for emergencies. The remaining $249,573 surplus will be whittled by a transfer of $60,202 to cover a lunch program deficit, leaving a “true surplus” of $189,371 for the general fund, Davis said.

Davis said Superintendent Hollis G. Milton is forgoing $6,768 in extra pay that he would be eligible to receive as a result of the board’s evaluation of his performance. The decision is in keeping with the salary freeze the board approved for other employees, and Milton is donating the amount of the increase for use in improving student achievement, Davis said.

Board President Kevin Beauchamp said Milton received 24 votes from School Board members saying he exceeded expectations in six evaluation areas, 12 votes saying he did not meet those expectations and six instances in which a board member did not vote either way.

Former teacher Mildred Armstrong, who lost her job in the recent job reduction move, differed with the overall evaluation, offering 13 reasons during the board’s public comment segment as to why she thinks Milton should resign or be fired.

“There’s no doubt you’ve made this a personal vendetta since…,” Beauchamp told her without finishing the sentence.