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School Board mileage rate stalls budget

Approval of the St. Landry Parish School Board budget slowed over discussion of a mileage increase.
Mileage paid to school system employees has been an issue since January and the next budget, which is to be voted on at a July 11 meeting, calls for a 10 cent increase to 46 cents per mile.
The mileage issue emerged again at a School Board Finance Committee meeting Monday in Opelousas where a public hearing was held on the budget that has about $151.6 million in expenditures and $150.4 million revenues.
Jamal Taylor, head of the St. Landry Association of Educators, argued for a 58 cents per mile reimbursement citing the figure as what the federal government has established.
The Board members were given a sheet detailing travel reimbursement numbers, but the chart did not include a total for what the district now pays. The chart also did not state what the school system pays for in-parish mileage reimbursement.
“Since the beginning of January we have had this discussion,” Taylor said. “The first time the numbers were supposed to be brought back there was a 10-page or 100-page document. Now, we are back again with some mathematics that seems funny to me.”
He added, ‘The truth is we are arguing about giving people what they are deserving. We are not arguing about an extra or bonus. We are arguing about what people deserve based on a calculation by scientists in the federal government,” he said.
Taylor said the Board asked that they be given the cost of in-parish travel.
Superintendent Patrick Jenkins recommended that the School Board approve the budget with the 46-cent mileage reimbursement and “see how the dollars play out then increase incrementally.”
Board member Joyce Haynes said she sat on the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana board and it was policy to link mileage reimbursement to the federal rate.
“I can’t call for the question because I’m not on the committee, she said. “It is a conversation that just goes round and round. Charts you don’t understand, Trying to find money that is not even in the discussion. It is to the point now what is it gong to cost you and can you afford it,” Haynes said.
Board member Hazel Sias said, “It is time for us to take care of our employees.”
Sias said the school system reduced its reimbursement rate in 2011 to 36 cents a mile and never raised it.

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