School District financials increase $1.4 million

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By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

There was good financial news for the school board Tuesday at the committee meeting. David Engel, from Fortenberry & Ballard Public Accountants in Jackson, Miss., said the board’s fund balance for the general fund was $4.8 million as of June 30, an increase of $1.4 million over the previous year. Engel reported to the board about the audit his firm conducted for the fiscal year that ended June 1, 2018. He said the board’s potential retirement liability is $115 million. Engel listed two findings that were not material, but could be because of outdated software. Engel said the findings could be cleared by next year. Supervisor of Finance Richard Foshee recommended choosing Software & Services of Shreveport to upgrade software at a cost of $182,000.

The company is the current vendor and Foshee said he got good responses from them. The current software is 15-20 years old.

Foshee listed the following bids that were accepted:

•Weaver HVAC/lighting: Payne Co., $910,000

•East Natchitoches HVAC/lighting revisions: Blanchard Mechanical Contractor, $632,000

•L.P.Vaughn HVAC/lighting revisions: $997,990 Foshee said the overlay of the parking lot at Natchitoches Jr. High will begin as soon as school is out.

The above items will be financed by proceeds from the bond issue passed by voters in the City last April. Repairs to a section of the parking lot at Natchitoches Central were done with money from its maintenance fund.

At the special called meeting April 17, Foshee will present bids for the Fairview Alpha ball field and playground equipment; Goldonna playground equipment; and Natchitoches Magnet School HVAC/lighting. Jason Edwards, director of Ecco Ride, the board’s transportation system, told the board about a bus accident in March on Hwy. 71 in Campti. Edwards said he viewed the accident on video to determine what happened.

He said a car ran into the back of the school bus just after it had made two previous stops. The bus was nearly stopped with warning lights on and safety arm extended. There were five students on the bus and one was taken to the emergency room by a parent. The student was released and reported soreness the next day. A parent later reported another student had a headache and Edwards directed the student be taken to the emergency room. Students about to board were standing away from the bus. Emile Metoyer asked Edwards about ECCO’s policy on cell phone use for drivers. Edwards said the company had a zero tolerance policy with dismissal for cell phone use or texting the first time. Board member Beverly Broadway heads a committee to study ways to recruit and retain teachers. The study is in its beginning stages and will include teacher and administrator representatives from all schools.

Supt. Dale Skinner said teachers are faced with increasing demands concerning testing. He believes teachers would welcome having free time by having someone assume their duty. He said it would cost about $60,000 to hire staff to do so. “We need to listen to everyone’s ideas,” he said. Board president Rhonda Guidroz urged the board and public to show appreciation to teachers and support staff and call schools to see if they are ways they can help. The school board will have cakes delivered to each school during Teacher Appreciation week. The board supported a resolution from the La. School Board Association asking BESE to increase MFP funding from $3,961 to $4,015 per child plus a $1,000 raise for certificated teachers and $500 for support staff.

MFP has fully funded secondary education only one time in the last 10 years. The school board must absorb the shortfall in state funding plus increases in healthcare and retirement costs. The board opposed a recommendation that the La. Dept. of Revenue collect local sales tax instead of it being collected at the local level.