A letter from Bossier Parish Schools Superintendent Mitch Downey

4435

Bossier Parish School Board Shows Fiscal Responsibility Amid Pandemic


Look no further than local and national news, social media and the many memes making the rounds to know 2020 has been far from a banner year. We have been plagued with the uncertainty of a global pandemic, economic disruption, civil unrest and most recently, a Category 4 hurricane. Am I the only one who finds it ironic that before this year, we thought of 20/20 as perfect vision?

School districts throughout America have been blindsided, too. COVID-19 has left many public school systems walking a financial tightrope as they meet families’ needs by offering traditional, hybrid and all-virtual learning models while juggling increased operating costs amid lost revenue. Bossier Schools is no different.

Faced with a projected $2.64 million deficit in fiscal year 2020-21 due to projected losses in sales tax revenue, property taxes and the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) allocation, the picture looked bleak. Yet despite being dealt a bad hand, the Bossier Parish School Board kept its focus steadfast on protecting the interests of employees and retirees, while exhibiting financial integrity and demonstrating good stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

The decisions did not come easily, but were made thoughtfully, beginning with evaluating potential savings within the district’s self-insured health insurance plan. Part of managing the Bossier Parish School Board group health plan is looking at cost-saving measures from all angles to ensure the district keeps costs down so premiums remain low.

An Insurance Committee Town Hall meeting was held August 20 to give BPSB employees and retirees a voice about three changes being considered: implementing a Medicare Advantage Plan for retirees with Medicare, implementing a Closed Formulary and/or establishing an Employer Group Waiver Plan (EGWP). Angst about the Medicare Advantage Plan and questions about its potential to negatively impact retirees who gave years of service to Bossier Schools and who were promised lifetime benefits led to it being taken off the table.

The Closed Formulary and EGWP, however, were passed in committee and later, by the School Board, after much discussion and realization the two options would have little to no impact on most BPSB health plan participants. This move is anticipated to save the district an estimated $2 million per year.

Because of sound fiscal management throughout the last several years, the district received a $2 million health insurance refund in the 2019-2020 fiscal year that the District has set aside for future insurance needs. The Board, in turn, committed these funds to the general fund, neutralizing the 2020-21 budget and keeping Bossier Schools out of the red and putting it in the black. This was quite the feat in and of itself, considering the number of school districts struggling.

It was these actions that led the School Board to make another decision that will affect businesses and commercial property owners in Bossier Parish who are also facing financial hardships. Though given the opportunity by the parish tax assessor to roll forward and collect nearly a million dollars in additional revenue from Bossier Schools’ established millage rate, board members chose not to force that on our business community and cause them to incur further losses or additional taxes.

Bossier Schools is in the people business, from the children we educate to the individuals we employ. The Bossier Parish School Board should be commended for keeping those faces at the forefront, as well as the taxpayers that invest in us, as they made the tough, but necessary financial decisions to ensure our school system remains both solvent and highly-acclaimed throughout the state.

Mitch Downey
Superintendent of Bossier Schools