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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Committee approves $6 million in school cuts

Committee approves $6 million in school cuts

Lafourche Parish’s Finance Committee unanimously voted Wednesday night to cut $6 million from next year’s budget, eliminating nearly 50 staff positions within the school district.

To take effect, the potential cuts will have to be approved by the full School Board at its next meeting on March 7.

The district will save $1.5 million, its largest savings, by changing the bus routes and cutting 28 of the district’s 135 bus drivers. The district will also not fill some administrative and staff positions that have become vacant or are expected to become vacant with retirements, resulting in an estimated savings of more than $500,000.

By stopping staff performance pay for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, the district would save $585,600.

No teachers would be laid off.

“I don’t like it, but I accept what you’ve presented,” committee member Ann Sanamo told Superintendent Jo Ann Matthews Wednesday night.

Because of a decrease in sales and property taxes, the district had to find $6 million in spending cuts before the next school year, Matthews told the committee last month.

Matthews had presented her recommendations for the cuts to the committee last month, which she said were made to try to protect teachers and classrooms. She said she was focused on addressing the current $6 million shortfall in hopes the economy could pick up in the future.

Committee member Al Archer said he was going to pray for a miracle to help the district.

“I’m a man of faith and I pray all the time and believe in miracles. Miracles happen all the time,” Archer said.

Matthews had also presented the committee with alternative cuts to consider in case any of her first choices for cuts were rejected. The alternatives included teacher layoffs, along with the elimination of programs such as Junior ROTC and agriscience.

More than two dozen people addressed the committee, lobbying against the alternative cuts of Junior ROTC and agriscience.

Miranda Danos, a student at South Lafourche High School, told the committee she learns things in ROTC that she can apply to everyday life.

“JROTC taught us to be brave and face our fears,” Danos said.

Cheramie Jupiter, a resident of Terrebonne Parish, told the committee she worked as a teacher in Lafourche Parish in 2016 and was laid off during the district’s reductions that year. In 2017, she was rehired, then was laid off again after the district’s proposed 1 percent sales tax was rejected by voters last spring, she said.

“I think it’s sad all these people have to beg and plead for these programs when they could have gone out and voted last year,” Jupiter said.


-- Staff Writer Holly Duchmann can be reached at 857-2205 or Follow her on Twitter @holly_evamarie.