The Lafayette Parish School Board approved a $428 million spending plan for the school system Wednesday with little fanfare, meeting the ideal deadline of having a budget in place before the end of the fiscal year.
Approving a budget is no small feat — as evident by the dramatic wrangling of budget matters between the former board and then-superintendent last year. The budget process stretched into September. And even then, former superintendent Pat Cooper refused to implement the unified budget adopted by the board.
This board’s adopted budget goes into effect July 1. The planning process began with a $16 million shortfall and ended with a budget that was balanced in part by adding an extra student to classrooms at all schools that aren’t rated with a D or F letter grade by the state. The increased class size produced a savings of more than $4 million.
The board also opted to dip into its rainy day fund by about $4.9 million.
The budget was adopted in a unanimous vote among the seven board members present: Elroy Broussard, Justin Centanni, Britt Latiolais, Dawn Morris, Tommy Angelle, Erick Knezek and Jeremy Hidalgo. Board members Mary Morrison and Tehmi Chassion were absent from the special board meeting that preceded the board’s regular business meeting.
A public hearing was held prior to the board’s vote on the budget, although no one took the opportunity to air any comments or concerns.
It was the first school system budget process for seven of the nine members, and this year’s board made few changes to proposals brought first by interim superintendent Burnell LeJeune and new superintendent Donald Aguillard.
The board restored about $918,000 in cuts to the general fund proposed by the administration, which will be used, among other things, to fund licensed practical nurse and social worker positions and student programs associated with the Acadiana Symphony, Acadiana Center for the Arts and Natural History Museum.
The general fund, which includes the bulk of instruction costs, totals $264 million and includes an expansion of the English as a Second Language program with nearly $685,500 in funding for nine more ESL teachers and three additional ESL paraeducators.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.