St. John facing school budget reductions

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2010

By David Vitrano


RESERVE – Executive Director of Business and Finance Felix Boughton presented a less-than-rosy outlook for the St. John the Baptist Parish school district’s finances during his third quarter budget report at Thursday’s School Board meeting.

Boughton said the budget is on target for the beginning-of-the-year predictions. A decline in sales tax revenue and MFP funding has forced the system to tap into its surplus, and the system is expected to use about half of that surplus by the end of the year.

In response to the projected budget problems, Millet alluded to cuts that would have to be made in the coming year.

“We are being forced to consider significant cuts in order to establish that balanced budget for the upcoming school year. We are working hard to avoid waste while protecting the integrity and quality of our classrooms,” she said. She said MFP funding pays most of the salaries in the district.

She said the district has already made cuts where possible, specifically on out-of-town trips and conferences. At the beginning of the current school year, the board also streamlined operations, eliminating some positions and reducing costs by over $250,000.

The board also accepted a number of bids for various construction projects in the parish.

Regarding the three roofing projects in the district, Ross A. Grand LLC of Baton Rouge was awarded the contract to replace the roof at West St. John High School, and Roofing Solutions LLC of Gonzales was awarded the contracts for projects at the St. John Child Development Center, John L. Ory Magnet, the Central Office and the Redirection Center.

The total for the three projects was just over $1.3 million.

LANCO Construction Inc. was awarded the contract for the first phase of a major work to be done at LaPlace Elementary School.

The board also selected a firm to handle the design phase of renovation projects at East St. John High School and the Child Development Center. Chenevert Architects was awarded the contract despite protests from board member Albert Burl III.

Before the vote was taken, Burl asked Floyd Luster of CSRS what the letters in the name of his firm stood for.

Luster said they currently have no meaning but originally represented the last names of the four founding partners. When pressed, Luster admitted the “C” originally stood for “Chenevert” but said he was no longer affiliated with the firm.

Burl then made a motion to table the matter pending further investigation, but that motion failed by a vote of 3-8. A vote of 8-3 awarded the contract.

Finally, Paul Griggs of Volkert and Associates Inc. gave the board an update on construction of a turning lane in front of Emily C. Watkins Elementary.

According to Griggs, the project is proceeding well with tracts of land having already been acquired and gas and power lines scheduled to be relocated.

Griggs projected the project will be complete in six months. Because that would put the target completion date after the start of the next school year, board member Russ Wise asked Griggs if it would be possible to complete the project earlier. Griggs said it “may be possible” but said he thought the contractor would be given that long to finish.

The Department of Transportation and Development is funding the turning lane project.