Large turnout sways CPSB Budget Committee - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Large turnout sways CPSB Budget Committee

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CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) -

A $10 million projected budget shortfall for 2014-2015 has forced the Calcasieu Parish School Board Budget Committee to make a big decision. On Tuesday, the board considered closing three area schools and went through with the closure of two of them. The third school was removed from the list due to a large group of testifiers at the meeting.

Reynaud Middle, Ralph Wilson Elementary and T.H. Watkins Elementary were originally recommended for consolidation, but T.H. Watkins was removed from the list.

Through tears, T.H. Watkins Principal Kay Victorian pleaded with school board members to consider other options, "We respectfully ask that you reconsider closing or consolidating T.H. Watkins."

Others at the meeting spoke highly of the school from parents to teachers.

In the place of T.H. Watkins, John F. Kennedy Elementary was added to the list. Its possible future consolidation will be voted on in January.

Additional schools may still be brought up in the next budget committee meeting for consolidation.

Aside from these consolidations, other budget cuts were also considered:

"Last meeting, we presented a possible outlook of a deficit of $13,446,377," said Chief Financial Officer Karl Bruchhaus. "Since that time, we have gotten a revised property tax assessed valuations."

On Tuesday, the Calcasieu Parish School Board's Budget Committee listened to staff recommendations on where cuts could be made to address the shortfall.

The committee voted to look at staggering school schedules, which could reduce up to 20 buses in Calcasieu, saving an estimated $700,000. The committee voted to have a study done to see if it's feasible. They also voted to consider looking at teacher reductions.

"I'd like to see some of the beef in this before it's presented," said committee member Fred Hardy.

Others, like committee Vice Chair Joe Andrepont, say they're glad they're looking at the possibility now.

"It's disappointing certainly that we are talking about cutting positions but that's the position that we're in," Andrepont said. "But doing this and discussing budgets and making plans now, it helps a number of things."  

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