Dec 12, 2011 11:31 PM by Shawn Kline
"The way it looks right now, there'll have to be a reduction in force, yes." That's what St. Landry Parish's Interim Superintendent had to say about a $4-million budget deficit.
School board members were told in February, St. Landry Schools were on par to meet budget. Now, 10 months later, financial advisors dropped this bomb: the board is now looking at nearly twice last year's deficit.
"If we don't get in compliance, and it'll be difficult to do so, the state could come in and send somebody here to make our decision for us," Acting Superintendent Donnie Perron said.
The challenge is to get the school board to find ways to cut the near $4-million deficit before the school year ends.
"Whatever cuts are being made or being considered, we should not be denying children some of the things they've enjoyed or some of things they need for their future," Board Member Charles Ross said.
Ross and the other board members are preparing for a budget shortfall for the third straight year. He says a rapid loss of federal funding (stimulus) and millions of dollars in desegregation mandates are, in part, to blame for the largest projected shortfall in years.
School District 9's Scott Richard suggested some of the blame also lay at the state level. Retirement benefits have been raised 13% over the past three years.
A new charter school, approved by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, could take away an estimated $2.1-million from the school board as well.
Ross says one of the largest set-backs is the desegregation mandates placed on the school last spring. The bonds alone will cost the school board $2-million/year for the next 10-years.
"(One suggestion was) that our attorney go back to the federal judge and ask that the judge lift some of those mandates that are upon us," Ross said.
Even if the judge agrees, that alone won't plug the leak.
Acting Superintendent Perron is laying every option on the table: from four day work weeks to even more creative ideas like satellite locations for lunch.
If the board takes-up most or maybe even all of his suggestions, Perron says dozens of lay-offs are almost inevitable.