LPSS superintendent releases statement on budget - KLFY News 10

LPSS superintendent releases statement on budget

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Dear Board Members: By now you may have reviewed the proposed general fund budget for the 2013-2014 school year. -We have looked at our fiscal situation in the school district both short-term and long-term. -We have looked at the current (12 million) and cumulative (45 million) cuts from and increased payments to the State. -We have looked at what our principals need in terms of support at their schools in order to deal with the increased workload resulting from the state mandates. -We have looked at what our teachers need in order to produce the kind of instruction that will take us to an "A" school district status. -And, we have looked at what is needed to get better results in the area of discipline.
 
The budget we have presented to the board for consideration is one that protects the school and the classroom...the teachers and students. There is little to no expenditures for the program piece of the 2'ND Year of the Turnaround Plan. Our central office and administration costs were cut further even though Lafayette Parish is already within the bottom 10 percent of all the local school districts in Louisiana relative to central office administrative costs.
 
Teachers and staff have not had a substantial raise in many years, and they are not included this year either. In order to produce a balanced budget while protecting the teachers and students, this budget does utilize a portion of the general fund balance. Even with this use, this budget results in a general fund balance of fifty million dollars, an amount that exceeds what can be considered ample reserves for a school district this size.
 
We anticipate this amount will be larger if sales tax collections exceed the budgeted "flat" rate of growth. The short-term consideration is that our general fund balance can be considered a rainy day fund...and it is raining. The alternative is to make what I deem to be drastic cuts that will harm the students and teachers academically, exacerbate discipline problems, and make it even harder to retain teachers.
 
These cuts could include eliminating elementary physical education programs causing teachers to lose much of their planning time, removing teaming as a middle school tool making it impossible for the teachers to have their grade level planning time, placing more students in teachers' classrooms creating even more difficulty for teachers to teach and children to learn, removing Assistant Principals and Deans of Students thereby making the discipline problems even more difficult to prevent and to deal with quickly, and implementing a one mile walk zone as is allowed by the State, making transportation of students less convenient for the parents.
 
The long-term consideration is that if we are to not lose ground this year in our quest for an "A" district, and continue the quest for excellence for all of our students, we need to fund the budget as presented. Additionally, it is inevitable in my mind that we will have to request from the citizens of Lafayette Parish additional tax revenues next year in order to not only survive another year of expected cuts, but to also provide funds to become an "A" district.
 
My recommendation and that of staff is to provide the standstill budget for this year utilizing a portion of the fund balance. Propose to the citizens a tax package this coming year to fund the programs and facilities we need.
 
If the citizens do support additional tax dollars our fund balance will be replenished. If the citizens do not support additional funds, then we will have to make the catastrophic cuts next year instead of this year. I would rather give the citizens of Lafayette Parish a chance to weigh in before we make those cuts.
 
Lafayette is among the wealthiest parishes in the state yet we are in the middle to bottom half in terms of taxing our citizens for education. I would respectfully request that the Board give the district staff a chance to grow one more year by accepting this budget and then give the decision-making ability relative to our future as a school district to the citizens in the form of a tax referendum during the 2013-2014 school year.
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