The Lafayette School Board on Tuesday voted to look closely at buying instead of leasing its buses, a move the district’s chief accountant said would save money over the long haul and over $1 million a year immediately.
School Board members also voted to raise school employees’ health insurance premiums by 9 percent.
Eight of the board’s nine members — District 4 member Tehmi Chassion was absent — spent Tuesday evening trying to bring the School Board’s 2015-16 general fund expenses in line with the expected revenue of $259 million.
The board started meeting in April to craft a balanced budget, which members are expected to adopt June 17. The school district’s 2015-16 fiscal year begins July 1. Another meeting is scheduled for Monday ahead of the mid-June public hearing and budget adoption.
Chief Financial Officer Billy Guidry said the district at first looked at purchasing 26 school buses, which showed significant cost savings over time and $132,700 a year the first year.
He said the district’s numbers crunchers then started looking at purchasing 128 to 130 buses.
“If you do it for 26, why not do it for all of them?” he said.
Purchasing all 128 would, over 20 years, cost $14.3 million, which includes maintenance and repairs. Leasing the buses over the entire term, Guidry said, would cost an estimated $36.9 million.
Purchasing the buses would save $22.6 million over 20 years, and more than $1.1 million a year, he said.
The board held off on voting to add the purchases to next year’s budget after Justine Centanni suggested studying whether buying buses that run on natural gas would make sense.
On employee health premiums, which the board approved 8-0 to add to the proposed budget, Guidry said the increase is necessary to keep the district’s self-financed insurance fund solvent.
The increase, depending on how much employees earn, would mean an additional $13 to $35 taken out of each paycheck.
The board, in a relatively short meeting that lasted about 90 minutes, wrestled with some point-by-point funding items. For example, it decided to cut 14 to 15 physical education positions and nine PE assistants next year, and add nine English-as-a-second language teachers.
The move would save tens of thousands of dollars.
As the board at one point delved into the budget’s micro numbers, President Tommy Angelle reminded them that the budget adopted next month is not etched in stone.
“There’s no reason why we can’t amend the budget” if it’s needed, Angelle said.
Editor’s note: This article was changed on Wednesday, May 27, to reflect that purchasing the 128 buses would save more than $1.1 million a year.