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Crescent City Schools board loosens rules on midyear budget adjustments

The board that governs Crescent City Schools discussed Harriet Tubman Charter School’s move, approved a manual for finance procedures and set its 2014 calendar at its Dec. 18 meeting.

The board voted to approve its manual and schedule without first soliciting public comments, contrary to state law that requires boards to solicit comments before any vote.

CEO Kate Mehok said that the board members typically don’t call for public comment when they know that the regular attendees and school employees present aren’t likely to say anything.

“This is the way we always handle it, if no one is in the room,” Mehok said. “But, if just saying out loud before we vote, ‘Is there any public comment?’ is what we are supposed to do … then we are happy to do that.”

She noted that the board does solicit comments when families attend or when someone has indicated that he would like to speak.

Tubman students are moving to the vacant O. Perry Walker High School building, just a few blocks from its current location on General Meyer Avenue, over the holiday break, Chief Operating Officer Chris Hines said. Tubman’s building is being renovated. Teachers and staff will return to Walker before classes resume to prepare classrooms.

The Recovery School District is helping to finance the move, Hines said.

Crescent City’s finance and accounting manual has undergone a few changes, but one change that board members questioned was a new policy on how the budget is handled.

After Hines spoke with other charter operators who had similar practices, Crescent City revised its rules to say that the board would have to approve revisions to its budgets only if school officials had spent more than 5 percent of budgeted expenses for the year, or if there was a revenue decrease of more than $100,000 from the approved budget.

Board member Carolyn Chandler questioned that change. Tim Bryant wondered if the board would still get to approve additional spending.

Mehok and Hines explained that the board still would approve its budget in June for the upcoming fiscal year. The rule change means the board wouldn’t have to approve every change during the year.

“The budget that we approve in June is never going to be exactly” where the organization will actually end up financially, Mehok said. “This policy allows for the reality.”

The board voted to change the wording of the policy slightly, but the effect was the same.

In other finance news, one of the organization’s other schools, Paul Habans Charter School, is getting $20,000 from the Campbell Foundation to help with its curriculum. And all three schools – Tubman, Akili Academy and Habans – will get more money due to an Orleans Parish School Board accounting error. Akili and Tubman will get $100,000 each. School officials don’t yet know how much money Habans will get.

The board’s next meeting is Jan. 22, at 6 p.m. at Tubman’s new location at 2832 General Meyer Ave.

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