Deputy Secretary Beth Scioneaux, speaking at the board’s unofficial gathering to review its financial crisis, told members straight forward that something has to be done about a looming disaster before mid January.
“There are some concerns about St. Landry’s financial posture. It is imperative that you address your financial deficit,” she said, noting the board had been sent a letter outlining DOE’s concerns.
By law, DOE monitors parish and city school systems and is required to take action, through the Board of Secondary and Elementary Education, is necessary to avert financial disaster in a system.
Her remarks skipped over the posturing, politicking and finger pointing and went straight to the hear of the matter -- the board is spending more than it is receiving, its nest egg is gone and adjustments are necessary - now and in the future.
The current fiscal year is almost at midpoint, and the projected deficit stands at $3.9 million. The reserve counted on to cover the greater portion of that was eaten up by the unexpected shortfall of the year that ended June. 30.
Early forecasts for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2012 are for a shortfall of $4 to $5 million based on current spending.
The board adopted a break-even budget in July, cutting programs and not filling vacant jobs to trim spending in order to meet huge increases in retirement and health insurance costs.
Since then, final numbers of the year ending June 30, 2011 ate up what little reserve was left and new numbers for the current year have exacerbated the pinch.
Acting Supt. Donnie Perron, who took over after Michael Nassif bailed in September when he took sick leave preliminary to retirement, said a short-term fix is necessary before planning begins for the next year, saying he doesn’t think the board can avoid the R word in that scenario - R as in reduction, as in reduction in force.
He and Finance Director Tressa Miller reviewed how the system got to the current point and previewed options available to get past it.
“We have to make some tough decisions and need to make them soon,” Perron told the board.
The St. Landry system has been down this road before. Several years ago, traveling it about 10 years ago, then recovering.
Some members took the opportunity Monday to lament how and why the system is where it is and to point fingers here and there. Others noted there was plenty of notice that a crunch was coming.
There’ll be more of that before the roll call that cuts spending.
Any substantive changes will impact personnel and programs, which account for 90 percent of the $112 million general fund budget.
Possibilities proposed by Perron to cure this year’s ails:
Suspend day to day teacher substitutes, saving $125,000 through June 30;
Suspend additional portion of heath insurance premium board pays for employees, $800,000 ($42.88 monthly);
Stop mailing pay checks, $10,000;
Direct deposit all payroll, no savings estimate;
Suspend GPS & bus monitoring contracts, $13,000;
Suspend cell phone contracts for bus drivers, nurses, Central Office, $11,800;
Review board attorney contract, no estimate;
Review board members’ pay, no estimate;
Suspend summer school, driver’s ed, $50,000;
Sell Food Service building, $100,000 (two years);
Furlough all employees one day, $300,000 per day;
Furlough 12-month employees one day, $60,000 per day.