The Finance Committee, at Interim Supt. Donnie Perron’s request, recommended the board eliminate a employee insurance subsidy, invoke a two-day furlough and stop use of day-to-day teacher substitutes as a means to head off a projected $3.9 million deficit, recommendations which have been on the table since December.
About two hours into the session, Carrier, after individual tete-a-tetes with several members and Perron, moved “in a spirit of compromise” to adopt the insurance and substitute provisions and explore adding minutes to the term’s remaining school days (suggested by the employees’ coalition) as another cost-saving measure.
Board attorney Gerard Caswell noted that such a motion could not be considered at that particular point of the agenda.
Carrier at that point likely had seven votes. When he departed, that left a six-six standoff.
And that’s where it stayed. When a vote came two hours later on a motion to adopt the insurance and substitute provisions the tie meant the motion failed.
Candy Gerace, Huey Wyble, Scott Richard, Harry Fruge, Roger Young and Kyle Boss voted for the cuts; Anthony Standberry, Charles Ross, John Miller, Raymond Cassimere, Quincy Richard and Josie Frank voted no.
A vote was never held on the furlough question. The administration wanted to give employees unpaid days off Thursday and Friday this week.
Earlier in the meeting, attorneys appearing on behalf of employees were direct -- furlough and we sue before the ink’s dry on the minutes.
They contended state law clearly prohibits any action resulting in less pay for teachers and other employees from one year to the next.
Caswell, responding to board members, said the jury’s still out on the issue, noting a Jefferson Parish case raising identical issues is on appeal and the education bureaucracy is waiting for a ruling. A district court ruling upheld the furloughs
He did advise the board that if it proceeded with furlough it would be wise to allow time between the vote and the actual days off for a petition for an injunction to be heard in court.
A number of employees addressed the board, using their allotted five minutes per agenda item to excoriate members for what they perceive as irresponsible or absent oversight of the system’s finance.
They threatened - make that promised - ballot box retaliation against any member voting to furlough them.
Near the end of the night, Perron, who took the helm when Michael Nassif left in the night last fall, conceded there is wasteful spending within the system, saying that is the case in any large enterprise.
He said his staff will continue to ferret out that but asserted something major still had to be done.
Perron said financial experts have told him the system could be broke in April. “Hopefully, we will get to June,” he said, projecting an even bleaker scenario for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
“According to all parties, we could be in the red by $10 million,” he said.
Finance Director Tressa Miller said after the meeting that it’s kind of wait and see. Revenue and spending projections are been made.
The vigil will include looking for any more new or increased revenue and trimming spending where it’s possible.
The coalition’s idea of adding minutes to the school year will be on the agenda. Several other employee suggestions offer promise of economy, if not this year then next.
One thing that seems off the board is any change to the majority to minority transfer program that sucks major dollars for inefficient transportation costs.
Caswell said U.S. Dist. Judge Tucker Melancon has rejected out of hand the possibility of relief by the court from that desegregation settlement provision.
“A deal’s a deal,” Caswell quoted Melancon as telling him.
The provision allows any student in the racial majority of a school to transfer to one at which his/her race is the minority, and the board is required to provide necessary transportation.
Caswell did say the judge said if all parties involved moved for such an change it could be heard in the normal judicial process.
But he added the Justice Department’s attorney in the case said he could not envision a circumstance under which Justice would join such a request.