OPELOUSAS — The finance director for the St. Landry Parish school district said Monday she is anticipating a general fund deficit of about $2 million when the fiscal year ends Thursday.
Although that amount is about $1 million less than Finance Director Tressa Miller projected in April, she told a Finance Committee the school system can’t continue operating effectively with annual deficit spending.
Miller said that as of May 30 St. Landry’s operating budget showed excess revenues of about $1 million. However Miller quickly added she expects a $2.3 million loss in June after paying salaries for employees who work an extra month.
The district will pay off the 2015-16 general fund deficit by dipping into reserve funding dedicated for what she said are “rainy day situations” — a situation that she advised should be averted in the future.
“We cannot continue to incur a loss (in the operating budget) every year. If we do, we are going to wake up and it’s going to be too late in the game …,” Miller said.
She said her original general fund projections for this fiscal year took a hit due to receiving about $1.1 million less than expected in state Minimum Foundation Program per pupil funding. That was due to losing about 4 percent more students than expected, she said.
Jerome Robinson, supervisor of child welfare and attendance, said the district had about 14,400 students in 2015-16, down about 400 from 2011.
In April Miller also told the board the district spent $1.54 million more than she projected for employee health insurance premiums: to a total of $3.3 million.
Miller attributed the insurance increase to additional employees obtaining health insurance and workers adding spouses and other family members to insurance policy coverage due to the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Despite the projected deficit for this fiscal year, Miller said the school system is in reasonably good financial shape.
“I would say that right now we are OK. We can’t continue however to sustain a loss each year. … We must consider streamlining our campuses and we need to continue building up a fund balance.”
For 2016-17, the district should continue to expect decreases in MFP money due to the declining student population parishwide, she said.
Hiring five former substitute bus drivers and paying them full-time salaries that include health benefits and retirement will cost the system about $63,500. In addition the district will lose its discounted telephone and computer rates — adding another $100,000 in expenses, Miller said.
Student and teacher travel costs for national conferences will cost an additional $7,000, she said.
Miller said she expects the district to save $650,000 in employee retirement costs, pay $160,000 less for health insurance and save another $145,000 after the board decided earlier this month to relocate the alternative school for expelled students from temporary buildings to another campus that has a permanent structure.