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Amid concerns over effects of vouchers, board passes budget

The board that runs Audubon Charter School approved its 2012-13 budget Saturday with an increase of 2 percent.

The budget goes into effect July 1, rising from $6.72 million to $6.84 million. That’s a
$125,000 increase.

The increase comes primarily from an expected boost in enrollment numbers. Each new student increases the amount of money provided by the state, called the Minimum Foundation Program, which is computed on a per-pupil basis.

This coming year’s student projection is 710 students at $8,082 per
students. The current year’s budget was for 672 students, at about $100 less per student.

The per-student funding is projected to be a little more than $5.8 million out of the school’s $6.8 million total revenue. That puts the state funding at around 85 percent of Audubon’s total revenue for next year.

Though the amount Audubon officials expect is hefty, they also expect to spend all of it, leaving the school no extra money. That, and the state school voucher program, prompted some board members to express their concerns.

Board Chairman Cornelius Tilton said he fears the recent emphasis on the state’s private-school voucher program – which will expand next school year to other parishes beyond Orleans, where it’s been operation – could draw students away from the school, taking their per-student money with them.

“When you look at it, you see an increase to MFP funding but we actually haven’t gotten an increase in four years,” Tilton said. “It should be known, I want it to be known, that we’re still equipping kids with same money we did four years ago.”

Salaries are expected to take up the biggest share of the budget and will increase about 3 percent over this year because of raises granted to some teachers.

Salaries and benefits account for 82 percent of the school’s expenses.

Custodial costs, insurance, materials and purchased services take up the
next big bulk of funding.

Audubon received grants from Entergy, the Selley Foundation and the RosaMary Foundation for the 2011-12 year totaling
$42,107. The school deferred recognition of that income to next year.

Though Audubon has many fund-raisers throughout each year to help finance various projects, that money is not included in the budget because the Parent-Teacher Organization hosts the events. As of this month the group raised about $68,000 towards its $75,000 fund-raising goal.

Officials said the school is also applying for various public donations and grants to help increase its revenue.

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