That’s an oversimplification, but an accurate reflection of the wiggle room in the $113.4 million revenue-and-spending plan forwarded Monday by the Finance Committee to the full board for consideration at the Aug. 4 meeting.
Finance Director Tressa Miller reviewed the plan at a public hearing held as part of the committee’s monthly meeting. No one attended the hearing.
The budget is the result of months of work figuring out ways to live within new unfunded mandates and expiring revenue sources.
It calls for an operating surplus at year’s end (June 30, 2012) of $25,383, or two-tenths of one per cent - .002 of the total.
Supt. Michael Nassif told the committee the financial plan reflects the financial emergency declared by the board this month.
“All the moves were efforts to make this budget balance,” he said. Big-ticket expense reductions include closing the Adult Education program, a trim of almost $400,000, and holding building repair and maintenance to $750,000, a reduction of $450,000.
If the board is successful in a grant application, it will restore the AE program. The accuracy of the building and repair budget rests on strict management and fate.
The elephant in the money room is retirement costs, which jumped almost $3.5 million, as new employer contribution rates are dictated by the the state the St. Landry and other jurisdictions.
That is a situation that seemingly tempts Finance Chairman Scott Richard to pull out what little hair he has left.
Clearly exasperated, he noted Tuesday that the parish’s lack of control over unfunded mandates from the state is a constant in its fiscal affairs.
“The Legislature passes them and puts them on us and we have to pull from our General Fund to make up those costs,” he pointed out.
Committee member Harry Fruge of Eunice was pleased with the budget, given the circumstances.
“It’s refreshing to see we are in as good a shape as we are, considering the systems’ problems all around us. We aren’t having to lay off teachers and others have. That’s a compliment to all the administrators and staff,” he said.
Nassif noted the remaining unanswered question for the current budget is what costs will be incurred as payment to the plaintiff attorney in desegregation suit.
That resolution is not expected until Fall when federal district court is expected to rule on Overton White’s request that totals almost $10 million for the more than 40 years’ work.
The budget proposal notes there will be about $3.7 million in accumulated reserve at year’s end.
Miller told the committee the fiscal year just concluded (June 30, 2011) was essentially a break-even 12 months on a $114 million budget.