LAFAYETTE — Interim Lafayette Parish Schools Superintendent Burnell LeJeune will ask the School Board to consider revisions to the budget it adopted in September before former Superintendent Pat Cooper refused to implement it.
Since July 1, the district has operated at 50 percent of last year’s budget based on a provision in state law when a public body hasn’t adopted a new budget by the end of the fiscal year. When the board adopted a budget on Sept. 15, Cooper refused to implement it.
The board fired Cooper last week after seven of the nine board members approved several charges against him related to some of his personnel and budgetary decisions.
The board appointed LeJeune to the interim job Monday, and he said the district is still operating with last year’s budget. LeJeune said Friday that will change soon.
LeJeune said he’s spent the past few days in meetings that involved budgetary reviews and he’ll present a plan to the board for proposed revisions during a workshop Wednesday prior to the board’s regularly scheduled 5:30 p.m. meeting.
“I want to give them some information concerning what I saw inside the budget and maybe some options for some revisions that I would recommend as we move forward with their adopted budget,” LeJeune said.
Those areas involve positions that the board proposed cut from the budget.
“We looked at each one of those and we looked at positions that impact directly student contact in the classroom or had an impact on teachers that indirectly impacted students,” LeJeune said.
LeJeune said staff is still revising its presentation, but will also provide the board with different options to fund the proposed restorations.
This year’s budget review was a contentious process with about 20 meetings and workshops held on the general fund as the board opted to identify its own ways to balance a more than $20 million shortfall rather than consider balanced budget proposals from Cooper. In the end, the board adopted a 2014-15 budget that included budget cuts that tweaked staffing numbers by about 100 in different job categories, including teachers, counselors, assistant principals and the few dean of students jobs that exist in the district.
Human Resources Director Bruce Leininger said Friday that the impact of the board’s Sept. 15 adopted budget is still under review because attrition could account for some of the cuts and the district also experienced a bump in enrollment, so positions were added at some schools. Currently, there are about nine teacher jobs still open in the district.
“We’re trying to sort out what the real picture is so we can give the board an accurate picture of where we stand,” Leininger said Friday.
Though the board adopted a budget on Sept. 15, Cooper refused to implement it. Cooper claimed the board didn’t follow state laws in the budget preparation and adoption processes, and that the cuts approved by the board would be detrimental to schools. He filed an injunction in district court to prevent the budget’s implementation and to continue operations using half of last year’s budget, but his request was denied by a judge in October.
The board’s adopted budget was balanced with more than $6 million from the district’s reserve fund. At least $2.5 million of the $6.3 million from the reserve account was earmarked for textbooks and other expenses the board took out of the budget.
When the board adopted a 2014-15 budget on Sept. 15, Student Services Director Beverly Breaux told board members that operations in her department, which includes school counselors, would be impacted unless they made decisions about how to allocate the $2.5 million it had set aside. No decisions have been made, though that version of the budget has yet to be implemented.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.
* This story was edited after publication to clarify the budget adoption process.