Facing deficit, Calcasieu School Board begins preliminary discussions to merge schools

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

With a projected deficit of $13.5 million for the 2014-2015 school year, the Calcasieu Parish School Board budget committee

on Tuesday began preliminary discussions to balance the budget by consolidating schools.

No action was taken on the issue, and committee members did not specify any schools. “We’re not at that point yet,” Karl Bruchhaus, school system chief

financial officer, said after the meeting.

The preliminary budget outlook was presented about five months ahead of schedule in preparation for the deficit. The School

Board recently balanced its 2013-2014 budget by selling its Mossville property.

“We’re making an effort to start this process early, so there are no surprises as next year approaches,” Bruchhaus said.

He said that if staff were to recommend closing specific schools, it would have to do with the surrounding schools and whether

they would be able to take the students in effectively.

“How it all fits together will be like a puzzle,” he said.

Bruchhaus said staff will analyze where population has dropped over the years and where people are no longer living in the

zone or leaving the zone.

“You have a population shift, which

creates smaller classes and end up costing more,” he said. “That’s why

in some schools

we’ll see that the total cost per pupil is higher when the school

is smaller because class size breaks are not as efficient

financially.”

Bruchhaus mainly attributed the future deficit to an increase in retirement costs and benefits. “We have to carve out in our

budget for those things that we can’t control,” he said.

Staff will make recommendations to the board in the coming months.

In other business, the committee made

changes to substitute teacher pay. If a teacher is certified or degreed

and works 10

consecutive days in the same position, on the 11th day the teacher

will go to full pay — $214 for certified teachers and $150

for degreed.

The change is that the school system will go back to that first day and pay them the higher rate from the first day.

“We’re rewarding (substitutes) for

being in that position for more than 10 consecutive days,” Bruchhaus

said. “We’re trying

to get (substitutes) to take those long-term jobs, so that there

is not a void in the classroom with the regular teacher being

out.”

The issue will go before the full board at its regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 12.