Education

Jun 2, 2014 9:41 AM by AP

Baton Rouge school budget lacks enough money

Unlike in years past, about a third of the spending proposed in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system's $441.1 million general operating budget reflects the judgments of school principals, not the central office.

However, the recently released budget proposed for the fiscal year starting July 1 is still out of balance, not a new phenomenon.

The Advocate reports schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor is projecting the school system will dip into its reserves once again to stay in the black, to the tune of almost $20 million. That's less than earlier projections of as much as $33 million in overspending, but it still represents an almost 5 percent increase in spending overall.

This spring, Taylor directed principals to cut their own budgets by 4 to 8 percent but to spare classroom teachers. Schools where 90 percent or more of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches would have to cut just 4 percent.

The shift to school-based budgeting is part of a larger effort by Taylor to give principals more power but stops short of the more radical power shift the Baton Rouge Area Chamber has been pushing and the Legislature has thus far rejected.

The proposed 2014-15 budget includes 80 school-level budgets complete with breakdowns of what positions principals have elected to keep. The budgets don't, however, make clear the savings each school proposes to achieve and what positions principals have opted to cut.

School Board member Jill Dyason has been the most vocal in saying she thinks the proposed school-level cuts go too far. Taylor, however, said he's been working with principals to blunt the impact of the cuts and meet areas of greatest need.

The budget Taylor is presenting the school board will leave the school system with a reserve of about $16 million at the end of 2014-15 fiscal year.

That's slightly better than the $12.5 million in reserves the school system projected in August when it belatedly approved its 2013-14 general operating budget. That projection turned out to be conservative, as the school system now projects it will end the year on June 30 with $33.1 million in the bank.

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