School board passes budget unamended

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2011

By David Vitrano


RESERVE – The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board Thursday evening passed the proposed budget without any amendments although athletic funding remained a sticking point with some board members.

Board member Rodney Nicholas was again the most vocal in his opposition to cutting athletic program allotments at the parish’s two high schools.

“I believe we can do academics and athletics,” he said, adding, “We are supposed to produce a product that was better than when we came.”

Before voting on the budget, Nicholas offered a substitute motion to leave the full amount of athletic funding in the budget.

Board member and Finance Committee Chair Clarence Triche, however, tried to dissuade other board members from adding more expenses to an already tight budget.

“When you start looking at our budget, it is 20 percent less than it was a few years ago,” he said. “For anything we put back, we have to find something else to cut.”

He also reminded the other board members that the economic situation next year may be even worse because the district had to use nearly all of its built-up cash reserves.

Board member Russ Wise also pointed out many other school districts, including neighboring St. Charles Parish, do not offer any special allotment for athletics at their schools.

Board member Albert Burl pointed out, however, the high schools in St. Charles have much higher operating budgets to begin with.

Board member Keith Jones, in an effort to bring some middle ground to the discussion asked Executive Director of Business and Finance Felix Boughton if it were possible to reinstate the funding if the financial situation should pick up.

Boughton informed him it is a possibility and said there are a few proposed construction projects in the parish that could bring some extra revenue to the school system.

Ultimately, Nicholas’ substitute motion failed to gain enough votes, and the budget as presented by the administration passed with board members Nicholas, Burl, Russell Jack and Patrick Sanders casting dissenting votes.

The board also voted on the salary schedule for the 2011-12 school year.

Boughton said the salary schedule originally proposed included money for one out-of-state trip per employee. He said given the current financial situation that part of the salary schedule was removed, and district employees will only be allowed to attend out-of-state conferences paid for by grants.

In other action Thursday, the board accepted the creation of a new position at the central office.

The position, called “coordinator of curriculum/assessment/ instruction (secondary),” will replace the current position of “supervisor of curriculum for grades 9-12.”

The person currently in that position has informed the administration she plans to retire.

Said Superintendent Courtney Millet, “It was a supervisor position. We wanted to create a coordinator position, which does pay less than a supervisor position.”

Head of the St. John Association of Educators Carolyn Batiste asked the board to table the motion until the union had more time to review the job description, but the subsequent motion failed, and the new position was approved.

Lastly, the board approved a funding source for repairs that must be made to the HVAC system at Emily C. Watkins Elementary School.

Since opening a couple of years ago, the school had had problems with its A/C and heating systems as well as with excess moisture.

Although it was not a project that fell under the bond issue approved by voters in 2008, consulting firm CSRS Project Manager Todd Mann, upon recommendation of the advisory council, recommended using funds originally set aside for covered play areas to pay for the repairs. Those particular funds were chosen because that is the only major project not yet begun.

When a member of the audience asked whether the covered play area project would proceed at some point in the future, Mann said, “There is pending litigation for the school board to recoup those monies that were lost.”

Board President Patrick Sanders also noted the next meeting of the school board has been changed from Sept. 15 to Sept. 22 to accommodate the sale of general obligation bonds. This round of bonds in the final installment of the 2008 bond issue.