By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress-com
The Bossier Parish School Board Finance Committee held the first in a series of public meetings yesterday to dissect the school system’s budget in a show of good faith to the community.
Multiple school board members requested the meeting in order to get an in-depth review of the school board’s budget following the defeat of two proposed tax millages in May that would have gone towards a pay raise for teachers and a technology funding source.
The meeting was open to the public in order to provide board members, business owners and the community a view of the school board’s revenue and expenses.
“The whole meaning of this meeting and the next few that we have to have is to let our community know that we’re open to talking line by line about every item on our budget,” said Shane Cheatham, president of the Bossier Parish School Board. “I want our community and our business owners to see that we are here to answer tough questions.”
At this time, revenue from from sales and use taxes is expected to generate $39,117,114 for the general fund. While $34,750,000 will be generated from property tax for salaries/benefits. And, $1,066,729 is expected to come from sales of fixed assets.
Starting as early as May, Bossier Schools CFO Frank Rougeau and his team began forming the upcoming school year’s budget.
When compiling the budget, they are estimating taxes through previous years of data, grants, and other sources of income. Rougeau said that although they do the best they can based on historical data, sometimes factors outside of their hands affect that.
“We don’t know when there will be a downturn in oil prices. So, all those things are big factors in our budget since we are so heavily dependent on revenue from the state, which is an oil and gas producer,” Rougeau explained. “We also don’t know what our October enrollment is going to be or what our enrollment is going to be in the fall. We have to adapt the budget before we get our total student enrollment.”
Bossier Parish Schools Superintendent Mitch Downey said that’s why the budget has to be revised throughout the year.
“We’re trying to make the best estimate possible,” said Downey. “The budget has to be revised because the original budget is based on estimates of revenue. It is then adjusted during the year to match the revenue that was actually generated.”
Rougeau added that while some changes are made to the budget over the course of the year, nothing drastic happens, saying, “We do have to move around some money from time to time. There is no big swing in the budget, but that is something that we do.”
Due to the size and complexity of the budget, there will be an estimated four to five more financial committee meetings held within the next few months.