School board seeks ways to increase fiscal transparency

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School Board member Beverly Broadway asked the board to move forward with a preliminary meeting with OpenGov to see if it would be a good fit. The company offers integrated budgeting, performance, communications and reporting software for public entities. It utilizes a cloud for information, such as budgets, to be instantly uploaded and provides an additional level of transparency for the public to access financial statements.

Broadway said the first step would be a teleconference. The item was tabled last month to allow the finance department time to see if it would be possible for them to upload the information to the existing school board website. It was not posted. Broadway said that is what she is hoping the program would fix. Board President Rhonda Guidroz expressed concerns with being good stewards of the taxpayer monies.

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“I agree we need to be as transparent as we can be, but we also need to spend the money in the best interest of the students. We have salary and insurance needs. We have to look ahead at other expenses we could incur.”

“We have to make sure we operate in a balanced budget,” stated board member Eugean Garner.

Broadway argued that increased transparency does help the children as well as creates a measure of trust with the parents and community. She said when the public knows how and where their money is spent, they will be more willing to pass or renew taxes. She said the preliminary session would be for making goals and an opportunity to discuss IT and financial concerns and see what internet and server needs are required as well as employee effort and time involved. “This meeting is to determine if they can help us meet our goals,” she said.

The board passed the proposal Thursday by a vote of seven to four. Voting in the affirmative were Reba Phelps, Emile Metoyer, Stephen Harris, Broadway, Katrina Willis, Dorothy McGaskey and Tan’Keia Palmer. Voting no were Rhonda Guidroz, Billy Benefield, Russ Danzy and Eugean Garner. Those four wanted to wait to hear the proposal until after the existing financial software was fully functional and operating by next May to move forward.

In other business, Katrice LaCour requested a stipend to supplement the self-generated funding for elementary, middle and high school orchestras. The 90 plus students raise funds for competitions, sheet music and transportation through fundraisers and donations. Broadway stated orchestra is part of the board curriculum as an elective subject. She suggested $20 per student, or roughly $4,000 annually. The motion passed Thursday.

Danny Von Kanel, director of the school of fine arts, said his program had raised $8,100 of the minimum $10,000 needed to fund that program. He asked the board to promote their upcoming live and silent auction. The event will be Nov. 7 beginning at 5:30 p.m. at East Natchitoches school.

Lynn LaCaze and other Fair Board members thanked the board for supporting the fair by allowing field trips for approximately 1,250 elementary school students to experience the fair. She said there were over 500 entries in the fair and from those, 100 checks were written to winners in the competitions. In addition, 19 teams from 12 schools across the state, including Natchitoches Parish, participated in FFA competitions presented in conjunction with the fair. Von Kanel and LaCaze both recognized the efforts from the community, individuals and businesses in supporting their endeavors.