Calcasieu School Board: 3,000 students have yet to return since hurricanes hit

Marlisa Harding

With many Calcasieu Parish School Board students unable to return to the region due to hurricane-damaged homes, the district is facing a $12,960,696 minimum foundation program shortage this spring. The MFP is the dollar amount the state allocates per pupil for public school costs.

Nearly 3,000 students have yet to return, so beginning in February there will be a reduction in funds, Wilfred Bourne, CPSB chief financial officer, said.

“Some may come back in the fall. Some of them are displaced just while their houses are repaired. It’s just a variety of reasons why we’re down.”

CPSB will turn in its official headcount on Feb. 1 — counting in-person and virtual students. “Every kid we can get back between now and Feb. 1 we still get credit for … but for Feb. 1, we can see there’s going to be a reduction.”

Anticipating the reduction, Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus said the district opted to begin the shortage in the January budget rather than cut the nearly $13 million out of the February-June budget.

“They’ll hold $2 million dollars a month until June out of our check. It’s a lot,” he said.

To make up for the shortage the district will have to absorb the costs because the budget has already been set for the full year.

“We contracted all of our teachers for the full amount of the school year. We’ve got a commitment until the end of the year. We’ve still got to pay all of our people,” Bruchhaus said.

Increased sales tax, likely from building materials, will help make up the difference, Bourne said. “Offsetting that is the sales tax that has gone up. It’s just now starting to show and we’re above budget for the month.”

Budget cuts last summer will also help the district make up the difference and absorb the cost of the missed MFP funds.

“Each department budget was reduced 10 percent. So, going into this year, everybody had less to spend,” he said.

The district is also seeing decreased maintenance costs this year as many repairs will fall under hurricane recovery — “a different pot” of money, Bruchhaus added.

“We may have a little cushion at the end there, too.”

Ultimately, CPSB’s leadership said it remains hopeful the numbers will rise again, viewing this year’s reduction as only temporary.

“As housing comes back, we still feel like a lot of our people will come back when there’s a place to live. We’re not panicking at this point. We took a hit but we’re still hoping for next year we’ll be closer to normal,” Bruchhaus said.CPSB

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