The Jefferson Parish School Board has approved a nearly half-billion-dollar budget for 2019.
The $481 million general fund budget was passed as part of the consent agenda at Wednesday's board meeting, meaning its approval was unanimous and came without discussion.
The budget is slightly larger than this year's figure of $477 million.
It incorporates some changes on which the board was previously briefed: money for three new resource officers at three advanced- study "academy" high schools, doubling teachers' allocation to purchase supplies and giving $250 raises to teachers and support personnel.
Another $5 million is allocated to purchase new curricula and train teachers to use them, the budget documents show.
Schools Superintendent Cade Brumley, who took office in March, told the board that he had eliminated several positions, saving the school system $1.1 million, though he noted that two of those positions, one in human resources and another in student services, have been reopened.
Another $4.2 million will be spent to reopen Woodmere Elementary as a traditional public school after the board refused to renew the contract of the charter organization that previously operated it.
While the budget passed with little fanfare, the next few months are likely to see recurring tension among board members over how to raise more money for teacher pay and for new and renovated buildings — two things that most agree are desperately needed. Some of that tension was already on display Wednesday.
After the budget was passed, board member Cedric Floyd announced that he was withdrawing a proposal before the board to ask voters in December to approve an 8.45-mill tax to fund pay increases.
As written, the proposal was nearly identical to one Floyd persuaded the board to put before voters last fall, when it was narrowly rejected. Floyd said he would bring the measure up again by Sept. 5, which he said is the deadline to get something before voters on the Dec. 8 ballot.
Floyd also said he hoped that a committee put together by board Chairman Mark Morgan would study his proposal as part of its work.
But Morgan argued that giving that direction to the committee would be inappropriate, saying it had been appointed to study a tax proposal for next spring. It made him uncomfortable, he said, to have one board member "trying to dictate what the committee does."
Floyd responded sharply.
"I have always said I would be working toward the Dec. 8 elections," he said. "You are playing politics with the committee."
Floyd said that high teacher attrition in the parish, pegged at about 400 departures per year, will continue until something is done about the pay issue. "Our house is on fire," he said.
Morgan agreed that teacher pay is important but said that putting a tax proposal on the December ballot would be a bad idea. "The last thing a voter wants to do in December, when they are trying to make a budget for Christmas, is tax themselves," he said.
Such exchanges are likely to get more frequent as November's School Board elections approach. Qualifying for all nine seats on the board takes place next week.