The Lafayette Parish School Board passed a $545.5 million budget for the 2019-2020 school year Wednesday, featuring pay raises for staff and a year without cuts after tax revenues stabilized.
It’s the first year in almost five years the school system hasn’t been forced to make significant cuts after sales and property taxes came in under estimates, Billy Guidry, assistant superintendent of business services, said. The economy is gradually recouping, and the property and sales tax collections are stable for the first time in years, he said.
Superintendent Donald Aguillard said he’s excited there was no reduction in personnel or programs.
“Next year looks bright for the school district,” Aguillard said.
Over half the budget, roughly $294 million, went to the school system’s general fund, which covers staffing costs for schools and system offices, utilities and other operational costs, Guidry said. Around 80 percent of the general fund’s costs are devoted to staff, he said.
This year, the budget included pay raises for staff from both the state and the school system.
The school system’s budget plans for state raises in the $1,000 and $500 range for teachers and support staff, respectively, because that was the most reliable projection available, Guidry said. On Monday, the Louisiana House Appropriations Committee approved a revamped budget proposal that would increase teacher pay by $1,200 and support staff pay by $600.
No matter what happens in the legislature, school system support staff are guaranteed a $450 pay increase from the school system, Guidry said. In the past support staff often weren’t included when the state was able to support a pay increase, and the system felt the hourly rate for support staff needed a bump, he said.
All employees are also guaranteed a STEP increase, or annual salary adjustment, between $200 and $450 depending on the employee’s pay category, Aguillard said. Thankfully the school system’s health insurance premiums remained steady, so the increase will function like a raise, he said.
“This would be characterized as a very good budget season for the district,” Aguillard said.
All assistant principals will also see a salary bump around $1,400. Many assistant principals rise from the ranks of teachers, and each year teachers are eligible to receive what’s called the “14th check” – surplus money from the system’s sales tax fund that’s distributed to teachers, Guidry said.
Assistant principals lose out on that benefit, so the pay increase will take the place of the “14th check,” he said.
The school system did elect to leave one notable funding element out of the budget, Guidry said. There’s an anticipated increase for per pupil spending proposed at the state level, but the future of that revenue remains uncertain and the budget team opted to leave it out, Guidry said.
If the revenue weren’t released, it would disrupt the budget, he said. Instead, if the per pupil increase comes to fruition, the superintendent will present a plan for how the funds will be used and the revenue will be incorporated later, Guidry said.
Beginning May 18, current assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Irma Trosclair will take over as the interim superintendent when Donald Aguillard retires.
This year the budget approval was bumped up by over a month to allow human resources to hire teachers and staff sooner, Guidry said. This is Guidry’s thirteenth budget for the school system, he said, and it’s the first time the school system has moved up the budgeting process.
They’re hoping to make it the new standard, he said.