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Legislative action may be costly for schools

By MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / November 23, 1998

LULING – Hold harmless.

While those words might not mean much to the general public, they are of great concern to St. Charles Parish School System officials. In fiscal year 1997, the school district received $21.953 million from thestate, $20.823 million of that coming from the Minimum FoundationProgram.

Because of its large tax base, the school system would normally not get any additional funding for any additional students. The funding would haveto come from local sources.

But because St. Charles Parish has been designated a “hold harmless”school district, one of 13 in the state, it still qualifies for state funding.

The state provides the difference that the old formula before hold harmless provided for the system and what the new formula calls for it to get now, a difference of about $7 million.

But now, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is looking to phase out hold harmless, a move that could cost the system millions of dollars.

Jim Melohn, comptroller for the school system, met with the other hold harmless school systems last week and gave an update to the St. CharlesParish School Board Tuesday night. Melohn said in counting votes on thesupport of the BESE board, it does not look good for the hold harmless systems.

“We want to make sure the hold harmless parishes stay together,” Melohn said of the importance of the systems meeting. “We want to make sure thepublic, our representatives and business and industries understand.”Superintendent Rodney Lafon said it is especially important that the Legislature knows what it means to the parishes affected.

“The fight will come down to the Legislature,” Lafon said. “That is whenthe rubber will hit the road. Large school systems like Jefferson, Orleansand Calcasieu could not survive without it. That is what the Legislatureneeds to realize.”In other business, the board accepted bids for equipment and supplies for the Destrehan High School Science Labs at a cost of $124,149.45 from theGeneral Fund. The board also approved the school calendar for the 1999-2000 school sessions.Students will report Aug. 18, 1999 withChristmas/New Year’s Holidays held from Dec. 20-31, 1999. Spring Breakwill be held April 17-24, 2000 with the last day for students June 1.

In his superintendent’s report, Lafon reminded parents and students that this year’s Thanksgiving Holidays begin Monday with classes resuming Monday, Nov. 30.

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