OPELOUSAS — A St. Landry Parish school district official told members of the School Board that they will need to consolidate or close some Opelousas elementary schools because of an anticipated shortfall of up to $3.2 million during the 2016-17 school year.

Finance director Tressa Miller told the six board members on the Finance Committee at a Monday meeting to begin planning for the closures or consolidations in order for the school district to save money.

Miller was critical of the board’s spending practices. She told the committee that the district cannot afford to continue dipping into reserve funds in order to forestall general fund deficits as it did in the 2015-16 fiscal year and as it will likely need to do for the 2016-17 year.

Miller provided the committee with a list of expected shortfalls in revenue and increased expenses she said the district will incur during 2016-17.

Opelousas has seven elementary and junior high school campuses and another site that will be used for an alternative school for students who are expelled.

Miller is estimating the deficit for 2015-16 to be slightly more than $2 million. She won't know the exact number until all of the bills are paid for June.

Other issues affecting the 2016-17 budget are an expected $1.1 million decrease in Minimum Foundation Program funding, $145,000 expenditure to relocate the alternative school to a different campus, $63,500 to move five bus drivers from substitute to full-time status, and $100,000 for a new phone system.

The reduction in MFP, which is state funding, is due to the loss of about 400 students in the 2015-16 school year, according to Miller.

Other expenses include $175,000 to hire three special education teachers, $80,000 to employ an assistant principal at South Street Elementary, $400,000 for 20 full-time teachers' aides for special education classes and $49,000 for a supervisor of instruction, whose salary is no longer covered by federal funding.

Also Miller said she included an additional $40,000 expense for the salary of a new superintendent, who the board expects to hire before Dec. 31 when the contract for Superintendent Edward Brown expires.

Brown earns $128,000 in base salary, but the board voted to set the salary of the new superintendent at a maximum of $160,000.

In a related matter, a Building, Lands and Sites committee voted to begin a feasibility study on whether money can be saved by relocating the school system’s central office to the pupil appraisal center off La. 182, north of Opelousas.

Committee members also pointed to the potential value of the land on which the central office sits, which is located on Creswell Lane, a major thoroughfare that is easily accessed from Interstate 49.

The pupil appraisal building underwent extensive renovations six years ago at a cost of approximately $1 million. Special education director Mary Doucet told the committee the pupil appraisal site accommodates testing for special needs students and offices for special education personnel.

Doucet said St. Landry serves 2,403 students with disabilities.

Board member Donnie Perron said he is opposed to abandoning the central office.

“I feel to consider closing this (central office) facility is unthinkable. I think what we need to do is focus on closing school sites. That’s where we will have the greatest savings,” Perron said.