When it came time for the budget update at the School Board committee meeting Feb. 6, board member Steven Harris broached the fact that there hasn’t been a balanced budget for the Natchitoches Parish School District in 4 years.
The budget was negative $357,000 in 2013-14, negative $3.8 million in 2014-15, and negative $2.1 million in 2015-16. Each year the budget is zeroed out by dipping into reserves.
“I’ve been told the budget was balanced, but we don’t” said Harris. “If this happened in the corporate world, the CEO would be fired. From this point on we need a true balanced budget. We need to stop spending more than we take in. We need to stop misleading the people. We need to stop backfilling. In accounting, where I’m from, they call that ‘fast and loose.’”
Tommy Melder said he was fully aware they were using reserves. He didn’t like it, but that it’s the position the state put the district in when it required millions for teacher retirement pay.
But there’s no more reserves and the budget can’t be zeroed out anymore. Supervisor of Business Affairs Richard Foshee said the actual expediters are trending below budget. “It’s close but we should come in under budget,” he said.
Patricia Roque said that for the last 5 years the board has been presented with a balanced budget and were told each time that if spending wasn’t changed the amount would have to come from the reserve to balance it.
“The accounting department has been letting the board know every year we’ve been going in the hole,” she said.
Superintendent Dale Skinner said the district overstaffed to raise the district’s score from a ‘C’ to a ‘B.’ Then cuts had to be made and people complained.
“You [the board] sat here and let us spend the money,” he said.
Emille Metoyer said that for the past 4 years he’s been voting against the budget. He voted against spending the money to open the Jr. High, which Skinner said is one of the best things the district has done.
“We can’t even get people to vote for a tax to improve schools for the kids in their neighborhoods,” Skinner said. “If the faculty, staff and employees would vote, we could get a tax passed. When it fails, it means we’re not dedicated to the students in our district.”