Finance Director Lee Waskom gave the Natchitoches Parish School Board a budget update at its Tuesday night committee meeting, Dec. 1. Revenues are slightly above last year at this time. There’s a little bit of savings in the Salaries Fund. This time last year the School Board collected nearly $2 million in the Child Nutrition Fund. This year only $436,000 has been collected up to this point.
“This should be a concern for all of us,” said Waskom. “This has to do with the year starting late, not as many kids showing up in the beginning. We only get paid by the federal government based on the number of meals served.”
Title I collections are $785,000 as compared to $540,000. Expenditures are up by nearly the same amount as the increase in revenue. The issue there is that some of this is Covid, there’s a three-month delay in how some of the money is doled out.
Waskom spoke to the Natchitoches Parish Assessor’s Office regarding expected tax collections through ad valorem. The Ashland/Goldonna area had $19 million worth of increase in value from growth in gas/utility infrastructure. That $19 million is added to the general parish-wide taxes as well.
Because of this Waskom said there will be an adjustment in the General Fund budget in the amount of $475,978, which can be put directly into payroll to cover any Covid issues that may come up.
Other adjustments include:
Consolidated District 7 (Lakeview/Fairview) – BRE Funds would move from $368,000 to $909,000
Consolidated District 8 – BRE Fund has an increase from $85,000 to $120,000
District 9 (Inner City Schools) – BRE Fund is moving from $1.3 million to $1.5 million
District 10 – BRE Fund is moving from $802,000 to $840,000
That’s $1,244,274 worth of budget updates that are part of the adjustments in the ad valorem taxes.
By Dec. 2021 Consolidated District 8 and 10 will need their taxes renewed. Waskom said he would like to start the process early and present these to the board in January. It has to be passed by April 2022.
“This is just being proactive,” he said.
The District 6 tax expired at the end of last year and there was no action taken in the past to renew it so the people in District 6 has no consolidated money billed to them in their last bill.
Overall, things are looking up, despite Covid. The Natchitoches Parish School District collected $372,485 more from sales tax than last year as of the end of October. Auto car sales are also up dramatically.
The District switched to a new payroll program in February. Teachers should receive their tax checks no later than Dec. 15.
Waskom also advised board members that the district needs to get moving on some things that need to be handled, legally and locally, to manage real estate matters on an hourly rate, as needed. He presented Joe Stamey’s resume and wants to work on three specific things right away.
The School Board has a lot on Parkway next to the bus barn and when the district started paving the parking lot, a deed restriction was discovered. Ownership of a Head Start building was mentioned as well. Waskom also brought up selling/properly managing the Cloutierville property.
“The longer they sit there, the more they cost and the worse condition they become,” said Waskom.
He suggested it would be nice to make a community center out of the building. The question would be, who would own it. Cloutierville isn’t an incorporated town, so there’s no one the School Board can transfer it to. The district would have to find out what entity ownership could be transferred to. Otherwise the property is just going to sit when it’s expensive just to pay for liability insurance to keep the buildings.
The discussion included the fact that it would take attorneys in Baton Rouge longer to handle these real estate matters, so contracting out to a local attorney [Stamey] on an as-needed basis, would be considered a cost savings measure.
Waskom also mentioned that he would like to take stock of and reveal all assets to the board (other land owned by the school district) so appropriate action can be taken.
In other business, at Thursday night’s Board meeting, Dec. 3, Waskom explained some of the audit report findings presented by Roger Cunningham at Tuesday’s meeting.
Waskom said that one finding was due to a 71% lack of appropriate signatures, which he wants to reduce down to 40%. This would be a significant improvement.
“I will be in the field and try to create best practices and get the numbers down,” he said.
The Board also approved a proclamation addressed to the Natchitoches Parish Council regarding the need to repair the dangerous roads in the parish. The proclamation states that many documented cases of vehicle damage occur because of hazardous roads that do not meet the minimum standards of safety. Besides hindering emergency assistance from reaching homes, the roads create problems for employees trying to get to work and busses trying to bring students to and from school.
Billy Benefield said he and Steve Harris plan to attend the Parish Council’s meeting in December to present the proclamation.
The Board also approved the NPSB Board meeting calendar for 2021.