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Lake Forest projects conservative $4.3 million budget in 2013-14

Lake Forest Elementary Charter School in eastern New Orleans is projecting a $4.3 million budget in 2013-14, built conservatively around 499 students.

The school has a target of 510 to 560 students next year, but director of finance Bernell St. Cyr said it’s financially more sound to plan for fewer students and less revenue than to overestimate and overcommit.

According to a budget draft that did not account for any projected federal revenues, the majority of funding is expected to come from state and local per-pupil funding, with only $159,000 expected in local grants and donations.

More than 80 percent of the school’s students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches because they come from low-income homes. But St. Cyr said the A rated, selective-enrollment school is ineligible for many large grants and federal programs set up to improve failing institutions.

“Our demographics just work against us, here in the East.” St. Cyr said, asked why the school had not received more in grants and donations. “We just don’t have that draw in high-value donations.The climate just doesn’t exist here in New Orleans East.”

Expenditures on student resources and materials are expected to drop over $70,000 compared to last year’s 2012-13 budget, from $161,586 down to $88,700.

Asked about the difference, St. Cyr explained that the school had purchased new textbooks and materials last year in order to prepare for implementation of Louisiana’s participation in the Common Core State Standards initiative.

Salaries were also up nearly $200,000 this year due to in-class tutors the school is contracting to help get the students ready for common core, he said.

Benefits have risen over $80,000, largely due to the increase in Teacher Retiremenent System of Louisiana contributions the school is required to make this year.

The state raised the rate schools contribute to the program from 25.5 percent to 27.2 percent this year.

Although Principal Mardele Early and the Lake Forest board said they once saw it as imperative to stay within the state’s retirement system, she has stated that she questions whether the school can afford it anymore.

The board plans to hold a public hearing on the budget Wednesday at noon at the school’s campus, 12000 Haynes Blvd. Parents or community members wishing the address the board can address members prior to its adoption.

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