The latest attempt by Lafayette Parish Superintendent Pat Cooper to have an approved 2014-2015 school budget failed by a 5-2 vote. It was a decision board member Dr. Tehmi Chassion knew before the meeting started.
“This is the 8th or 9th attempt at a budget. We have made the cuts that we want to make and now we just want to finalize the budget and probably use some of the fund balance to finish it off, “ said Chassion
Cooper’s new budget proposal calls for three assistant principal position eliminations; much less than the board approved eight eliminations. Chassion said cuts are a necessity, thanks to rising costs from upcoming charter schools.
Cooper disagreed, “We have a whole lot of money in our reserve fund. We probably have around 68 million dollars. We are asking the board to use about 5.7 million of that to ensure we don’t have to cut personnel cause I think it’s important in this day and time with all the changes in teacher evaluation procedures and the tests that they are giving us that are tougher than they used to be. We don’t need to be cutting staff.”
Some board members such as Mark Babineaux said Cooper’s proposal raised red flags. He is against using almost 14 million dollars in one time and reserve monies to fund on-going expenses.
“We will make that money back because Lafayette is not going to go through an economic downturn this year, nobody is predicting that. So that 5.7 million is going to be made up in five to seven months, “ Cooper rebutted.
Chassion said Cooper isn’t being realistic about the 20 million dollar budget shortfall; a deficit he said will continue to grow.
“Charter schools will take that much more from us. As soon as we zero this budget out, we are going to have another 20 million dollar deficit to address next year. He’s not taking the budget seriously.”
Board Vice-President Tommy Angelle said, “I think a balanced budget means balancing it without having to dip into a savings account.”
The board decided to scrap the proposal and review cost items once again on Thursday’s meeting. At that time, the board hopes to either make a final approval or start the process over again. The board has until September 15th to make a final approval or revert to the 2013-2014 budget.