Closing DES could save $1M

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Monday evening, the Bogalusa School Board met for its usual committee meeting prior to the monthly board meeting.

The big presentation was by Deloris Walker, the district’s financial officer, who presented the board with the estimated costs associated with the closure of Denhamtown Elementary.

Since last month, Superintendent Toni Breaux and district leadership have sought to cut costs through a consolidation plan that would shutter Denhamtown, move more classes to Central Elementary School, trim some administrative positions and offer other savings.

The board declined to approve the consolidation plan last month, however, because members, led by President Curtis Creel, wanted to see clearer figures. Monday, Walker laid out those figures. According to her estimate, the district could save close to $1 million by closing Denhamtown.

Walker explained that $284,604 would be saved in the closure itself, $159,000 would be saved on food service costs and $387,277 would be saved from salary and benefits. In addition, the district will save a final $168,793 if the board votes to charge parents a fee to cover the cost of instructors, as the board seems likely to do. In total, Walker projects the district will save $999,672.

Breaux said at the end of the meeting she hopes the board will approve the consolidation plan on Thursday.

“I would just like to say we are at a standstill — the Bogalusa city school system, my supervisors and I, along with my principals, we can’t make any decisions until this is resolved. Whatever you all decide, I will accept it gracefully,” she said.

However, Breaux warned that unless the district consolidated, she would be forced to cut elsewhere.

“The deficit is going to start to build up and we are going to have to do something if were going to maintain the school system,” she said.

However, in a phone interview on Tuesday, Creel said he was not quite convinced all that savings could be realized.

“I hate to say this because I do know that Deloris does a good job, but the numbers, to me, were not firm numbers,” he said. “That was some speculation. I am still not sure the bottom line figure they put on there is accurate. That’s my opinion, I am not speaking on behalf of the board or anyone else. It’s just me.”

In addition, the district offered no specific plan on what would become of the old elementary school if the board did approve closing Denhamtown.

“We’re not going to demolish it,” Breaux said Tuesday of Denhamtown. “We’re going to clean it up and hope to sell it.”

The superintendent then added that she hopes the district’s population will pick up so the district can re-open Denhamtown if it does close.

Already, the school has two vacant school buildings, Pleasant Hill and Superior Avenue elementariness. Long Avenue Elementary is also empty, but it is used for storage by the district.

Creel said the district is in a hard place when it comes to old buildings.

“The neighbors don’t want a vacant building,” he said.

Creel added that even if the district does maintain the lawn and cover the windows, the district isn’t going to prevent vandalism.