The East Baton Rouge School Board voted Thursday to approve a new $454 million budget.
The board voted to make cuts in several areas in order to make up a $24 million dollar deficit. Non-classroom Staff had a reduction of 144 positions or 8.5%. Classroom Staff had a reduction of 96 positions or 3.1%.
Taylor Gast, Director of Communications & Public Relations for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, said they worked to try make cuts in the classroom as minimal as possible. She says some teachers are being moved to other schools. She added, “positions were eliminated and vacancies went unfilled. Interim employees who were not promised positions were cut first”.
Superintendent Warren Drake defended the job cuts. He said many schools were overstaffed and hadn’t reduced staff in years as enrollment declined.
There is also $1 million less in the budget for textbooks. Gast explained this is helping to save money in the long run as the district moves toward technology.
Board Vice-President Tramelle Howard said, “I’ve requested that the budget committee come back before the board monthly as the budget is continued to be revised. I believe we must become transparent and start much sooner with the budget process. I am a proponent of the open check book so folks know exactly where every dollar is going.”
There is also $3.9 million from a separate school system fund known as Proposition 3, which supplements employee salaries and benefits. That fund is financed by half of a one-cent sales tax earmarked for education that East Baton Rouge voters renewed in April 2018.
Howard said, “Budget cuts are tough and have major impacts on our schools and students and no one likes to see them. My hope is that we become more proactive as a district and not reactive.”