LPSS Presents Finance Committee With Big Budget Shortfall Numbers
The Lafayette Parish School System has received some financial information projections that will require significant budget cuts to keep the school district in the black.
Interim Superintendent Burnell Lejeune and Billy Guidry, the executive director and chief financial officer, offered a 27-item inventory that included a recommendation of cuts that the school system staff compiled to the school board's Finance Committee. Both Guidry and Lejeune pointed out that the information gathered is just a starting point to assess the projected budget shortfall and how the funds may be recovered.
In the report, projected budget shortfall projections for the next three years is estimated to be more than $18 million. Even with the 27-line items that would eat away at that deficit, the school system would still be over $1 million dollars in the hole.
LeJeune said the report, including the projected position eliminations, was a careful compilation of goals that were reviewed including the impacts to daily classroom operation and services that would affect general administration, teachers and facilities. He mentioned that the staff has already made over $4 million in budget cuts this year to the school system's operating budget.
A major line item discussed at length was the issue of increasing the student-to-teacher ratio. The report lists that to increase the number of students by one per every classroom teacher would save the district $4.29 million. Not considering that some of the district's principals addressed the committee showing their disapproval of the ratio increase, there are other issues that arise from the "plus one" increase.
“If we do go to plus one we are looking at 70 teaching slots that we have to account for,” Lejeune said.
Dr. Tehmi Chaisson, District 4 Representative and Finance Committee member, stressed that the Central Office operating budget be cut before the district's classrooms are affected.
"We have to scale it down here so they (the district's classroom teachers) can operate in the classrooms," Chaisson said. "Before touching a classroom, I would operate without a central office, but I know we can't. There has to be more positions to be cut here at the Central Office."
"The inescapable reality is that 90 percent of our budget is personnel," said Justin Centanni, District 6 representative and Finance Committee chairperson, affirming Chaisson's concerns.