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Tressa Miller, St. Landry Parish School Board finance director. (File photo)

School Board’s $2.5M deficit is ‘worst case scenario’

Proposed budget to the public on its website

A $2.5 million deficit in the next St. Landry Parish School Board budget is a “worst case scenario,” according to Tressa Miller, finance director.
The deficit is the change in the school system’s beginning balance of $21.6 million and an ending balance of $19 million.
The Board held the second of three meetings on its budget in a Zoom session on July 8. The next session is at 3 p.m. Wednesday. The first meeting was on June 17 when Miller provided highlights of the budget to the Board.
The proposed budget is available to the public online at budget. The budget is also available at the School Board’s office at 10:13 E. Creswell Lane, Opelousas.
The Board’s budget process is likely the most transparent of any government entity in St. Landry Parish. In February documents related to School Board agenda items became available online at its website.
Mary Ellen Donatto, a Board member from Eunice, doesn’t believe the online posting of information is at any particular directive of the Board.
“We do often say ‘be as transparent as we can be,’” she said.
Albert Hayes Jr., another Eunice Board member, said, “I don’t see any legislation that is driving this.”
Public interest and the demand for information by education groups is helping open the process, he said.
COVID-19 has also played a role as the Board is faced with meeting in sessions available to the public on the internet.
“In many ways Mr. Jenkins (Superintendent Patrick Jenkins) has improved our outreach...” Hayes said.
“I think he has done a very good job in responding to this virus as well,” he added.
The budget is for the fiscal year that started this month.
Previous school system budgets have projected deficits, but ended in the black. The budget year that ended in June was projected to have a $1.5 million deficit, but Miller now projects it to be $320,000 in the black.
Jenkins said, “The last couple of years we’ve done, the staff and I have done a really good job and Tressa of identifying areas where we can save throughout the year and we’ve dome in the black at the end.”
Budget highlights include the following:
— The St. Landry Parish School Board is the largest employer in the Parish with approximately 2,000 employees. Total budgeted revenues for all operations are $154,145,426 and total budgeted expenditures are $156,164,848.
— Decrease in Minimum Foundation Program of $1.5M due to decreasing student enrollment.
— Decrease in sales tax collections as the result of COVID19 of $1.1 million.
— $6.4 million is budgeted for CARES Act funding related coronavirus expenses.

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