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Hearing May 22: New Beginnings schools find various ways to budget a revenue windfall

A current-year windfall of $2.2 million will be used next year to plug deficits, fill reserves and add support staff at the four charter schools managed by New Beginnings Schools Foundation, according to a preliminary presentation of the foundation’s 2014-15 budget.

The influx of money, projected changes in enrollment and changes in federal and state funding will be discussed at the budget hearing for Pierre A. Capdau Charter School, Medard H. Nelson Charter School, Lake Area New Tech Early College High School and Gentilly Terrace Charter School. The hearing, which is open to the public, is at 4 p.m. May 22, in the CERM building, 2045 Lakeshore Dr.

Capdau

At Pierre A. Capdau Charter School, loss of federal funding next year is “greatly impacting” current finances, according to chief financial officer Karen Craig. With $3.87 million in projected expenses and $3.56 million in projected revenue, the school faces an operating deficit of $309,056.

That’s a big decrease from the 2013-14 amended budget, which shows $4.79 million in projected revenue and $4.22 million in expenditures, leaving a $566,774 surplus.

Overall, the school will receive nearly $1.23 million less next year, mostly due to a drop of more than $780,000 in federal funding. That’s a whopping 25.6 percent reduction in total revenue between the 2013-14 amended budget and next year’s budget.

The drop in funding was because the federal government realized it overpaid years ago, and is now recovering the excess by reducing current allocations, Craig said, adding that the money has already been spent.

Craig anticipates that the school will spend $313,776 less next year, a 14.3 percent decrease from the current year.

Most of the cut will be by reducing purchases of materials and supplies to $88,722, a $242,632 decrease.

Support expenditures are expected to increase by about $24,000, however, or 1.8 percent. Total spending on non-instructional services is expected to decrease by $61,429, or 8.5 percent.

Since a school cannot legally turn in an imbalanced annual budget, Capdau will use a per-pupil windfall to plug the current deficit. The school received an unexpected $438,845 in state per-pupil funding this year as compensation for an accounting mistake by the Orleans Parish School Board in distributing revenues for the 2011-12 school year. Of that money, $309,056 will be used to plug the deficit, Craig said.

At a recent board meeting, however, member Wanda Brooks said she thought that it was unfair that Capdau had to use its windfall to plug a deficit.

“This school has a deficit through no fault of its own,” Brooks said.

She asked if the other schools, which also got the per-pupil funding windfall, could share their portion. But since charter schools are financed individually, that’s not an option, Craig said.

The finance committee plans to discuss alternatives before the budget hearing May 22, but Craig says so far she hasn’t been able to find an alternative way to plug the deficit without compromising the school’s academic programs.

The principal “needs all resources in the proposed budget to improve school standing,” Craig said.

Capdau is the foundation’s lowest performing school and is up for charter renewal in two years. The 2014-15 budget is based on a projected enrollment of between 378 to 392 students, Craig said, and a projected staff of 37 students.

As of Feb. 1, the school had 376 students.

Gentilly Terrace

Gentilly Terrace Charter School will fare better next year, according to the preliminary budget, and will use the revenue windfall to add six staff to support school performance.

The remainder of the windfall will be rolled into the 2014-15 budget and used to pay performance bonuses to teachers, upgrade mobile computer labs, help fund a new academic support position and plug an operating deficit, Craig said.

According to Craig, $252,760 of the windfall will be applied to the 2014-15 budget, with 4 percent of held in reserve.

Without the unexpected money, Gentilly Terrace would have a budget deficit next year of $103,575.

With a projected enrollment of 447 students and 42 staff, the school projects $4.26 million in revenue next year, and $4.37 million in expenditures. The extra $252,760 yields a surplus of $149,185.

Adding new staff will increase instruction expenditures by $71,418, or 3.3 percent, and support expenditures by $352,456, or 32 percent, according to the preliminary budget.

The school expects the same number of students as were enrolled Feb. 1.

Lake Area

Lake Area New Tech Early College High School will budget for 70 additional students and eight additional staff next year, according to preliminary financial documents.

The projected enrollment of 730 students is up from 660 students counted on Feb. 1. The school projects staff of 64.

The school got $780,992 as its part of the windfall, and will use it to fund teacher performance bonuses, computer upgrades, a ROTC program and a portion of the salary for a director of academic support.

Federal funding will pay for two ROTC staff positions, according to preliminary budget documents.

Total revenue for Lake Area is projected at $6.85 million, down from almost $7.10 million in the 2013-14 budget as amended. The $249,337 difference amounts to a decrease of 3.5 percent.

The school will get $254,672 more from the state, but $454,232 less in local revenue and $49,777 less in federal revenue, according to a budget comparison.

Lake Area is projected to spend about $6.64 million next year, as compared to $5.91 spent this year, according to the 2013-14 amended budget.

Nelson

Medard H. Nelson Charter School will add seven staff members, bringing total staff to 43, but is budgeting for approximately the same number of students — 494 — according to the school’s preliminary 2014-15 budget.

The school’s windfall of $562,026 will be rolled into the 2014-15 budget to pay for performance bonuses, computer upgrades and part of the cost of hiring a director of academic support. A $200,000 surplus will be held in reserve to fund needs identified as the year progresses.

Nelson’s proposed 2014-15 budget anticipates $4.90 million in revenue, down $884,324 from 2013-14 budget expectations. That’s a 15.3 percent decrease, mostly due to reductions in local and federal revenue.

Total expenditures for Nelson come to approximately $4.73 million for next year, according the preliminary budget, down slightly from $4.89 million this year.

The school anticipates a $539,237 reduction in instruction expenditures, mostly in the category of materials and supplies. Support expenditures are expected to increase by $444,794, or about 35.7 percent, mostly due to added salaries and benefits.

Nelson is projected to have a net surplus of $167,565 next year.

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