Teachers, other employees to receive about $2,200
LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish School board approved bonus paychecks Wednesday for the majority of its employees, including about 2,400 teachers.
Teachers and other eligible employees, such as counselors and librarians, will receive about $2,200 later this month.
The money to pay the bonuses comes from $7 million in reserves available for distribution from a 2002 half-cent sales tax dedicated to teacher pay and support.
The half-cent sales tax generated a total of about $26 million with $7 million remaining after the dedicated funding was spent.
Board members spent much of Wednesday’s meeting discussing how to allocate $8.8 million in surplus funds, with recommendations including using about $1.7 million to get the district ready for new mandated online student testing requirements that take effect next school year.
Last month, the board set aside $4.4 million of the surplus for debt service on new school construction.
But Wednesday, the school system’s staff offered different recommendations, including moving about $5.9 million of the $8.8 million into a rainy-day fund in order to have a three-month financial cushion for operating expenses.
For the remaining $2.9 million, staff suggested $1.2 million could be used for a board-recommended, one-time bonus for support workers, such as custodians, and $1.7 million could go toward preparing schools for new online assessments known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
The $1.7 million would fund wireless technology, computers and hands-on instructional materials for math and science classes.
During this year’s budgeting process, the board stripped some capital projects, such as technology upgrades, to balance its general fund budget with plans to fund the projects as sales tax revenue become available.
The board didn’t take a vote Wednesday on how to use the surplus, but board member Rae Trahan urged board members to consider using half of it for school construction.
“Yet again, we’re going to find ourselves in a situation where we can’t build schools, when we had identified money to do exactly that,” Trahan said.
The board plans to discuss potential building projects and how to pay for them at an upcoming board retreat that will be scheduled after the board’s next meeting on Oct. 16.
Trahan urged board members to wait until after the retreat to decide how to spend the money.
Billy Guidry, the school system’s chief financial officer, said $62.6 million is needed in the rainy-day fund to cover at least three months of operating expenses.
School Superintendent Pat Cooper told Trahan that while the board previously discussed using half the surplus for debt service to pay back construction bonds, the board made other commitments as well.
He told Trahan the $4.4 million the board has set aside for debt service needs to go toward the three-month operating reserve fund “unless you want to break your own policy.”
Cooper said the staff’s recommendation also includes projects that the board said would be handled on a pay-as-you-go basis.
“We’re not coming at the last minute to change anything,” Cooper said. “We’re coming back to the original desires of the board.”
In other business, the board voted 5-4 late Wednesday to select Key Benefits Administrators as its insurance administrator.
Blue Cross Blue Shield previously served as the school system’s insurance administrator.