Union reps express concern for tax allocation

Published 6:20 am Saturday, August 27, 2016

Several representatives from local teachers’ unions went before the Bogalusa City School Board Thursday evening to express concern regarding the budget for the next year.

Ken Martin, with the Bogalusa Federation of Teachers, and Richard Magee, who is with the Bogalusa Association of Educators, said they were concerned for a simple reason. They said that in the district’s proposed budget, Deloris Walker, the district’s financial officer, had dedicated sales tax revenues that would traditionally go to teachers to general operations.

Each year, the teachers earn two supplemental checks — one given in November and the other in May — based on extra revenue from a sales tax. However, as Board President Curtis Creel pointed out, the district can legally use the funds however it sees fit. In addition, the board may not pass a budget that isn’t fully funded.

However, Martin said taking away part or all of the supplemental checks could hurt the district’s teachers.

“We’re hoping the board will consider we have been able to keep a lot of employees because of it and bring people here because of it,” he said.

The board seemed to sympathize with Martin and Magee, and Walker pointed out she did the same thing in last year’s budget, and the teachers still got both supplemental checks. Walker said the budget is revised each month, and as the district gets the tax revenue it needs, she said the sales tax money will remain separate for the supplemental checks.

“That was the same situation last year,” Creel said. “We have to have some kind of a cushion, if you want to use that word, to make sure we operate within the guidelines of the law.”

Creel added that in addition to the backup plan of using sales tax money for operational expenses, the district is also implementing a hiring freeze and a hold on substitutes and allowing other positions to go unfilled.

With those savings measures in place, he thinks the district will not have to use the sales tax revenue.

In addition to a declining tax base, the city district has been hit hard by student attrition. Over the summer, the student population shrank by over 100 students who enrolled at the charter school. The district lost not just those students, but state funds, too. However, Walker echoed Creel’s confidence that, with other cost saving measures, the district should “be OK.”

Following that, Bogalusa City Councilwoman Gloria Kates addressed the board. She said she wanted to recognize all the participants of the summer feeding program. The program offered lunches and breakfasts to children throughout the community with the help of school district employees, whom Kates praised as diligent and outstanding.

On a separate but related note, the district announced it will continue to offer free lunches and breakfasts to all students at the high school, Byrd Avenue, Denhamtown and Central Elementary.

Kates also enquired about the district’s policy for personal electronics.

After that, Creel made an amendment to the agenda to include a technical education program for students, and this was approved.

The board then tackled new business, and everything was approved with little to no comment and it was all approved unanimously.

The board approved the new budget, a new seclusion/restraint procedure, the millage rate for the year — which is unchanged, a revised budget for June, motor insurance, a discard system for fixed assets, a copier lease and an updated policy that said all employees who are uncertified with the Department of Education will receive zero years of experience in their salary until certification is granted.

The next board meeting will be Thursday, Sept. 22, at 5:30 p.m.