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OPSB budgeting error makes for $3 million FirstLine Schools revenue windfall

FirstLine Schools are in for a $3 million windfall, thanks to a budgeting error made by the Orleans Parish School Board in disbursing tax revenues. (Update: The infusion of cash isn’t due to an error, OPSB officials tell The Lens.)

The good news was presented to the FirstLine board at its March meeting by Stephen Rosenthal, chairman of the charter network’s financial committee.

This “one-time infusion” is based on a “one-year lag in payouts, and every year they were paying out revenues based on the prior year,” Rosenthal said. “You’d think they would only be one year behind,” he continued, “but when you look into it you find the difference ends up being the difference between the first year and the last year.”

The money will be apportioned to OPSB charters based on enrollment size and how long the school has been in operation. FirstLine manages five open-enrollment charter schools: Arthur Ashe Charter School, John Dibert Community School, Samuel J. Green Charter School, Langston Hughes Academy and Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School. Clark, FirstLine’s newest school, will see less of the money than Ashe or Langston Hughes, which have been in operation since the inception of the Recovery School District (RSD) according to the network’s chief executive officer, Jay Altman.

The windfall provides some breathing room on other matters, such as selling the land that housed New Orleans Charter School before Hurricane Katrina destroyed it in 2005. Sale of the property, at 3801 Monroe St., is the top priority of the facilities committee, which has considered putting it up for auction, committee chair Kim Henry said.

Altman was joined by board chair Greg St. Etienne in advising the committee to hold off on that option. The area’s new Costco and continuing upgrade of the Xavier University campus could increase the lot’s value.

“We’ve had liability concerns in the past that made it advantageous to get the property off of our hands,” said Brian Egana, former chairman and a continuing member of the facilities committee, “but today is different, considering the news we’ve received from the financial committee.”

Board Members in attendance for the March 26 meeting were Lawrence Kullman, Monique Cola, Catherine Pierson, Alison Hartman, Gregory St. Etienne, Brian Egana, Kim Henry, and Stephen Rosenthal. Absentees were George Freeman, Christian Rhodes and Derius Harrell.

This story was updated after publication to include a link to the Orleans Parish School Board’s explanation of why charters are getting more money. (April 24, 2014)

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  • nickelndime

    OPSB BUDGETING ERRORS: Yes, there certainly is a madness in OPSB’s method (of paying out) or vice versa (Ha!). It likes to hold onto the money for as long as it can, but still manages to stay in the legal “gray” area. Who is in charge of the finances over at the OPSB?! O, I forget. It’s Stan. Now Stan doesn’t exactly have the qualifications to run the finances of a public school system (not even a public school), but when OPSB messenger Ira Thomas questioned Stan’s credentials, the board (steered by 4 other members, which included the current board president Nolan Marshall, II) nearly killed the messenger because they didn’t like the message, all of which goes to show, you can lead a ho to water, but you can’t make her think.