LAFAYETTE - The Lafayette Parish School Board voted 7-1 to balance its general fund budget Wednesday by shifting another $255,000 earmarked for new buses.
The bus money was moved to restore $240,000 in proposed cuts to a teaming program used at Lafayette Middle and Edgar Martin Middle that enables teachers to work as a team to plan and teach the same cohort of students.
The program has contributed to both school’s improved performance scores, said board member Hunter Beasley, who led discussion to locate funds for the program.
Board member Rae Trahan cast the sole vote against the budget move while member Tommy Angelle abstained.
The board had deferred decisions about the budget at its May 24 budget meeting so the full board could vote on decisions related to preschool program funding.
The early childhood program needed $1.1 million to maintain its operations of eight Pre-K4 classes and four Pre-K3 classes that had been supported by federal Title I and Title I stimulus grants. At least five of the Pre-K4 classes needed general fund support of $325,000 and staff had identified $800,000 in Title 1 funding that could be directed toward remaining preschool classes.
By 9 p.m., board discussion continued on Title 1 cuts to support the program and whether to fund the 3-year-old classes or open up more classes for 4-year-olds on waiting lists.
“There are 4-year-olds who are not being put in at all into a Pre-K program. They are on a waiting list,” said Trahan. “Those students (who) have an opportunity to get one year of Pre-K are not because we’re focusing on a smaller group.”
Board members Beasley, Greg Awbrey and Shelton Cobb supported funding both age group classes. The 3-year-old classes are at Truman Montessori and Alice Boucher Elementary, which is on the state’s academic watch list.
“Those kids are still not going to be ready for kindergarten if we eliminate the 3-year-old programs there,” Awbrey said. “I think in the end ?with one way we’ll have some ready for kindergarten. The other (way) we’d have none.”
Cobb questioned why the board didn’t cut more from its capital improvement budget. During the budget process, the board reduced staff’s request for eight new buses to four and on Wednesday further reduced the request to only one bus.
Transportation director Bill Samec said five buses are still needed, but could be leased for about $67,500.
As of 9 p.m., the board had only approved the proposed the general fund budget. The other proposed budgets were set for approval on Wednesday with the comprehensive budget proposal set for publication and public inspection from June 16-29.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled at 4 p.m. June 29 followed by a special meeting to approve the budget at 4:30 p.m.