Lafayette budget agenda a surprise to board president

Lafayette Parish School Board members may have thought they were meeting Tuesday to continue their account-by-account review of instructional costs and to hear from supervisors defending their expenses — but the agenda for the meeting dictates otherwise.

The board has been holding meetings since mid-May to offset a $23.5 million shortfall. As of July 15, they had cut more than $13 million.

Board President Hunter Beasley said Monday that he expected the board to pick up where it left off about two weeks ago. So, he was surprised by the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting that limits the board’s discussion and review to only two items: the latest proposed balanced budget from Superintendent Pat Cooper and the time line of budget meetings.

The agendas for the budget review meetings typically list each of the major accounts as separate agenda items.

When contacted after the release of the agenda late Monday afternoon, Beasley said he had not yet seen the document and had not reviewed it before its release to the public. Typically, the board president reviews the agendas. However, Beasley said he doesn’t always review ones for special meetings, such as those on the budget, because in the past, the format has been the same.

Cooper said Monday evening the new budget proposal is offered as a way to expedite the budget approval process.

“We got it down to $5.7 million from the reserve and we’re using a lot of the cuts that the board wanted to use,” Cooper said.

He said board members will receive a list of cuts they’ve approved and the list of restorations requested by supervisors, who will be available to defend their expenses — as planned.

“We’re going to ask them to pass the budget,” he said. However, any action unrelated to the new proposed budget reductions proposed by Cooper and staff will have to wait until Thursday’s budget meeting.

The board has rejected Cooper’s previous budget proposals. This is the first that doesn’t use any portion of a sales tax fund reserved for teacher pay increases. The latest proposal would use about $5.7 million of the board’s rainy day fund.