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Parish school district budget unbalanced

VIDALIA — The Concordia Parish School Board adopted an unbalanced budget Thursday night, the first unbalanced budget the district has had in more than 20 years, Business Affairs Director Tom O’Neal said.

But O’Neal said a fund balance surplus — approximately $27 million that has accrued in the last 20 years — should offset the $4 million the board plans to spend over its budget in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

The board adopted a budget that included $40 million in revenues and $44 million in expenses.

“Because we have a fund balance, it makes that legal,” O’Neal said.

The fund balance includes designated state and local monies that cannot just be tacked onto a budget, O’Neal said.

“It has to be spent on certain things,” he said.

Without the fund balance, O’Neal said, the school board would have to make cuts.

O’Neal pointed to expenses such as supplements for teachers that could be easy targets for cuts next year if the board is again faced with an unbalanced budget.

Teachers are given a $600 supplement they can use for their classroom, a $100 supplies supplement and a $3,500 salary supplement.

O’Neal attributes the fund balance to conservative spending over the last two decades.

“That’s the whole purpose of being conservative — for a rainy-day fund,” he said.

The board could have cut programs this year to balance the budget, O’Neal said, but instead elected to go through with programs and initiatives it had already started.

Those programs include phase two of the district’s $1 million technology program, new bleachers at Ferriday High School, ceiling and lighting upgrades at Monterey High School and other expenses.

The budget also includes $2.7 million for food services, a program O’Neal said is experiencing some financial issues and should be monitored closely during the fiscal year.

The budget also includes expenses for three separate debts, a 2002 loan for a new roof at Ferriday Lower Elementary School, a 2005 $4 million loan to refurbish science labs, libraries, furniture and a new gym roof and a $1.8 million loan in 2009 for a new roof at Ferriday Upper Elementary and Vidalia High schools.

A 13-mill tax to pay for the 2005 debt service will go before voters next month, O’Neal said. If it passes, he said, the debt could be paid off next year.

In other news from the meeting:

The board met in executive session to discuss the termination of a non-certified employee, who is a maintenance technician. The board voted after executive session 4-3 to go against the recommendation of Superintendent Paul Nelson to fire the employee. The employee will continue his employment.

Members Fred Butcher, Charles E. Minor, Cheryl Probst and Raymond T. Riley Jr. voted to go against the recommendation. Darlene Baker, Warren Enterkin and Jeffery Goodman voted for the recommendation.

Board President Gary Parnham Sr. abstained from the vote.

 

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