Lafourche Parish School District's proposed budget for this school year includes salary increases and will likely help boost the amount of unassigned money that can be used for needs that arise.
In the past 10 years, the district's projected revenue has only exceeded its expenditures three times. This year, the budget estimates that the district will see that occur again thanks to the state's passage of a 1.375 percent increase in its school funding formula this past legislative session for raises.
The district will receive $4.78 million through the state's minimum foundation program, or school funding formula.
Don Gaudet, Lafourche Parish School District business manager, said the school system is also getting a slight boost in state revenue after cutting millions worth of expenditures from the general fund over the last three years.
Viewed as a poorer district than in the past, Lafourche is receiving more money.
The revenue will go toward the fund balance -- which is the unassigned money that can be used for other needs during the year.
Gaudet said that during the period when the state stopped increasing its contribution through the funding formula and local tax contributions decreased, the school system relied heavily on its fund balance.
With its savings between 2018 and 2020, it's projected to reach $8.79 million by the end of fiscal year 2020, a growth of 139 percent since 2018.
"It's recommended that your fund balance be at least equal to two months of your expenditures," said Gaudet. "Eight million is almost one month of an expenditure."
Therefore, he said the district will still be short of what would be considered an "adequate fund balance."
In addition to the state's $1,000 raise for teachers and $500 for support staff, the district also plans to provide a step increase for all employees and include one contract day for employees who are contracted for more than 185 days.
For the past three years, employee salaries have been frozen to address budget shortfalls, which has hurt the district's teacher retention.
While this year's budget puts the school system on the right track, Gaudet noted that the School Board and administration will have to consider what to add back to the budget that had been cut in recent years while continuing to build toward an adequate fund balance of about $16 million.
Though the employees will receive their step increase this year, they remain three steps behind on the salary schedule -- a gap that will have to be addressed. Lafourche teachers' salaries in general rank in the bottom third of the state.
Issues like the district's aging bus fleet and other projects will also have to be prioritized for the 2020-21 budget and beyond, said Gaudet.
The School Board will hold a public hearing on the budget on Sept. 4 in the central School Board office. Board members are also scheduled to adopt the budget on the same night and post an adopted budget online on Sept. 6.
The board has to adopt a budget by Sept. 15 to submit it to the state on time by Sept. 18. A copt of the proposed budget is available on the school district's website.
The public hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. at 805 E. Seventh in Thibodaux.
Staff Writer Halle Parker can be reached at email@example.com or 857-2204. Follow her on Twitter, @_thehalparker.