LAFAYETTE — About an hour after it voted to accept five formal charges against Superintendent Pat Cooper, the Lafayette Parish School Board on Thursday sidelined yet another budget proposal offered by Cooper, voting to meet Monday to consider its own revisions to the 2014-15 spending plan.
Chief Financial Officer Billy Guidry has told the board it must approve a spending plan by Monday to meet a state deadline and submit an approved budget to the Louisiana Department of Education by the end of the month.
The board will meet at 4 p.m. Monday to consider a version of the budget it had approved conditionally on July 31. Cooper had refused to advertise that version of the budget after consulting with the legal department of the state Legislative Auditor’s Office and instead presented to the public the budget he had prepared.
Rather than consider the proposed $440 million unified spending plan proposed by Cooper, which would have restored about $8 million in cuts proposed by the board, the board voted Thursday to ask staff to prepare the budget revisions it had provisionally approved on July 31.
The board voted 6-3 to meet Monday to consider its revisions. Voting against were board members Shelton Cobb, Mark Cockerham and Kermit Bouillion.
Since mid-May, the board has grappled with the general fund to close a $23.5 million budget shortfall.
A majority of board members has repeatedly rejected more than a dozen balanced budget proposals from Cooper in favor of identifying their own cuts and offsets to close the funding gap.
During the July 31 meeting, the board came within $1.6 million of the target and voted to close the funding gap with money from its rainy day account. The board also voted to set aside $2.5 million in the rainy day funds to cover expenses it had removed from the budget for instructional materials and textbooks.
On Thursday, Cooper warned the board that it wasn’t following state law in its attempt to present its own version of the budget. It’s his job to prepare the budget, he told them. They’re not allowed to “cherry-pick” expenses, he said.
Cajundome director Greg Davis appealed to the board not to approve the cuts it made to the budget. Davis filed a federal lawsuit against the board, asking the court to intervene in the board’s budget process. The suit is still pending.
“Approving these cuts you will with willful intent approve a budget that will have a disproportionate effect (on) poor and minority students,” Davis said.
Parent Ella Arsement asked the board why it opposed Cooper’s proposed budget in favor of its own. Board members did not respond and routinely do not answer questions from the public during board meetings.
Retired educator Pat Sonnier credited the board for its review of the budget.
“I think the board was very prudent when it went through the budget line item by line item,” Sonnier said. “Until we see more money come into the system, we need to take a step back.”
Following the meeting, Guidry said the board’s version of the budget does not need to be advertised. He said the board could have made the changes Thursday but opted instead to consider the revisions on Monday.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.