The St. Tammany Parish School Board is looking for revenue growth in its proposed $391 million budget, which includes a raise for employees and an expansion of a prekindergarten program.
While the final vote on the budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 won’t be taken until Thursday, the School Board voted as a committee of the whole this week to approve it and also to approve the final revised budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Arabie described the expansion of the Early Childhood Pre-Kindergarten program as a long-standing goal of the School Board. The administration looked at last year’s waiting list for the program, which is for children eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches, to see what would be needed to include all eligible students, she said.
Last year, the program had about 1,000 children and 44 teachers.
The proposed budget includes five additional pre-K teachers and five additional paraprofessionals, which Arabie said will make full participation possible.
School Board President Elizabeth Heintz said she’s pleased with the program’s expansion and believes the classes will be helpful to students in the long run.
The proposed budget anticipates a $9 million increase in revenue over last year. A memo from Superintendent Trey Folse outlined a projected $3 million increase in ad valorem taxes and a $2.5 million increase in sales taxes. Those local sources make up $181 million of the projected revenue for the upcoming year.
State funds make up $209.4 million of the system’s revenue stream, a figure that takes into account an anticipated $3.5 million increase in Minimum Foundation Program funds due to an increase in the per-student allocation and projected enrollment growth of 250 students. Federal sources add another $470,000 in anticipated revenue.
Salaries are the largest expenditure in the proposed budget at $223.5 million, with proposed raises and stipends accounting for $5.3 million of that total.
Last year, employees received a one-time stipend from $4.9 million that was sent to the school system by the state with the stipulation that half the money had to be given to certified classroom teachers. St. Tammany used the money to give raises to all employees; those who held teaching certificates received $774, and other employees got $662.
School employees had not received a raise for the prior three years, School Board member Mary K. Bellisario said.
But according to a memo that Assistant Superintendent Pete Jabbia sent to board members, the state now is requiring all school systems that paid a stipend last year to provide at least that amount this year as a raise that will become part of teachers’ base pay.
Teachers are slated to get a $775 raise under the proposed budget. They must be rated effective by the state to get the money, Jabbia said Thursday, but the vast majority of the system’s teachers meet that criterion, he said.
Teachers who are rated highly effective will receive an additional $500 stipend, he said. Other system employees will get a $400 raise.
School Board member Michael Dirmann said the extra money provided by the state last year ended up becoming “almost like another unfunded mandate’’ but that the district “held our end of the deal up anyway.’’
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