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|OPSB explores cost saving measures|
The Ouachita Parish school system will look at ways to cut cost in preparation for expected cuts in state funding next year.
Superintendent Dr. Bob Webber told the school board Tuesday during its regular meeting that there were numerous ways in which the school system was looking to save money.
He said school systems across the state will face "the largest cuts in 25 years" when the Legislature grapples with a $2-billion budget shortfall for the 2009-10 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Gov. Bobby Jindal recently announced some $341 million in cuts to the state's 2009 fiscal year budget.
"It's not going to be a good year for (state) MFP (Minimum Foundation Program) funding," Webber said. "So we're trying to get ready for next year because funding will be less."
Some expenses could be eliminated by improving management practices such as turning off lights at schools when not needed.
Dabo Graves, energy coordinator for the parish school system, told the school board that too often school personnel or students leave on lights in classrooms when there is no one in the room.
Air conditioners and heaters also are being left on when there's no one in school facilities, he said, which wastes money.
Board member Carey Walker suggested the school board place an emphasis on conservation and let school administrators know the board will be looking closely at each school's energy bills.
Webber said the school system also was spending about $10,000 per day on substitute teachers. He said a greater emphasis would be placed on teachers not missing school days to cut back on that expenditure.
Approximately $150,000 a year is being spent on lost textbooks, Webber said, an expenditure that could be avoided.
"There's a lot of things we can do better if we emphasis it," he said.
The school system is spending about $1 million annually on workmen's compensation. The school system must do a better job of "checking for safety around schools," Webber said. More safety training also should be provided to school personnel to hopefully reduce the amount of injuries during the school year, he said.
Webber also suggested cutting out all general fund expenditures for school employees' travel expenses.
Board member A.R. "Red" Sims agreed the expenditure should be eliminated. He said some school administrators had used school system related travel engagements for personal vacations.
"We've had so many vacations at the taxpayer's expense," Sims said. "They go off on those trips, and they're doing it for vacation."
"I had a former administrator go with one of my principals to Canada," Sims explained. "He told me, 'Well, you voted against it, but I still got my vacation.'"
"You would not believe how many times this happens," Sims added.