Calcasieu Parish School Board facing $13 million deficit

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

The Calcasieu Parish School Board is

expecting a $13 million deficit for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, officials

said at a committee

meeting Tuesday.

“Having been here almost 17 years, this particular deficit is the biggest crisis we’ve ever faced,” said Karl Bruchhaus, chief

financial officer.

The school system is expecting a

reduction of $3.6 million in state funding, an increase of $2.9 million

in retirement costs,

an increase of $1.5 million in health insurance, and $2.2 million

in local funding transfers to charter schools. These major

changes total nearly $11 million.

“Those four categories present major

problems,” Bruchhaus said. “The main concern for the school board here

in Calcasieu,

as well as school boards across the state, is increased benefit

costs that we have no control over. Retirement costs for both

of our major retirement systems, as well as our health insurance

costs, are increasing like everyone else in the country.”

Bruchhaus presented the findings to the budget and fiscal management committee meeting Tuesday night.

“Things have gotten tighter and tighter and have gotten squeezed,” Bruchhaus said after the meeting. “It gets more difficult

to make cuts.”

“These costs we have no control over, but we have to find ways to fund them,” Superintendent Wayne Savoy said after the meeting.

“We have to deal with it.”

To alleviate the deficit, the board suggested a hiring freeze, which will go before the full board next week.

Jim Schooler, board member for District 8, backed the freeze in order to help balance the budget.

“It’s going to be tough to get to $13 million,” Schooler said after the meeting. “We’ll get there, but it’s going to be hard.”

Billy Breaux, District 13 board member, mentioned the possibility of consolidating schools with low enrollment.

“Budget cuts tend to show you areas that you can be a lot more efficient and spend dollars more wisely,” he said during the

meeting. “It’s hard choices.”

Joe Andrepont, board member for District 12, said tough decisions will have to be made.

“Just cutting positions will not save us $13 million,” he said during the meeting. “As a board, we will need to begin our

own thought process of what needs to transpire.”

On May 21, the staff will make recommendations to balance the budget to the School Board