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Finances in surplus despite enrollment uncertainties at some schools

Budget projections have held up and each of the five schools in the expanding FirstLine  network are operating with a surplus of roughly $30,000, finance committee chairman Stephen Rosenthal told fellow board members at their monthly meeting, April 24.

The strong balances have been realized despite unpredictable drops in attendance and related revenue, especially at Joseph S. Clark Prep. The back ink shows that the corporation as a whole can support itself within the current model, Rosenthal noted. That’s “a good thing,” he said, at a time when enrollment “remains a difficult factor to predict.”

Much of FirstLine’s funding can be forecast based on various streams of government support. The rest comes from non-continuing funds, such as the recently awarded literacy grant, which will dispense $5 million over five years, and donations to the Edible School Yard, whose recent fundraiser pulled in a hefty $88,000.

Asked by board member Allison Hartman how FirstLine salaries stacked up against state and federal averages, chief executive officer Jay Altman  said he didn’t have the numbers in hand but that he was confident salaries and benefits remain high for the region and competitive nationally.

Members expressed surprise to learn that Jefferson Parish receives roughly $1,000 more in federal funding per student than does Orleans Parish. The reason why is that total property values per student are significantly higher in Orleans than in Jefferson. Board members questioned that claim but were told it’s an argument that would have to be made in court, not at a school board meeting.

The meeting ended in an executive session for  “personnel discussions,” Altman said.

Seven of nine board members were present as was a union representative of United Teachers of New Orleans.

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