By Carolyn Roy

The school board got good news Tuesday at a committee meeting.

“The budget is balanced,” Supervisor of Finance Steven Solomon said. The system has a budget of $68 million that includes revenue and expenses from the Parish, State and Federal funds. The general fund budget is $54 million.

Solomon said it had taken the efforts of many people to bring the budget into line. The board members learned in December of last year the budget was facing a deficit of over $4 million. The balanced budget has resulted from numerous changes in the staffing formula that included reducing the number of long-term substitutes, combination of programs and reassignment of personnel.

Part of the solution was the receipt of $800,000 from timber sales and passage of a sales tax that will generate an estimated $2.4 million in new revenue.

However, the system has seen the increase in the costs of health care and retirement benefits as well as the reduction of $700,000 in Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) funding from the State.

Superintendent Dale Skinner said he hoped some of the long-term substitutes will be able to remain but won’t know for a while. “It’s hard to tell non-certified teachers you don’t have anything for them,” Skinner said.

One of the major reductions was in the number of long-term substitutes who were not certified.

Some staff has been reassigned to other positions that resulted in a lower salary. Skinner said he got input from principals about their faculty needs. And although there may be fewer faculty and staff, he still expects those schools to perform well.

“I want to thank everyone, especially Mrs. Page,” Skinner said. Linda Page is personnel director. He said many others in the Central Office and throughout the system contributed in the effort to balance the budget.

The budget will be printed in the Aug. 10 edition of the Natchitoches Times.