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Lusher Charter School's budget meeting reveals $11 million surplus

The Lusher Charter School’s board announced at its annual budget meeting that ongoing building maintenance and raises for faculty and administrators will result in an increase in expenses in next year’s budget, effective July 1.

The 2012-2013 budget hearing held Wednesday, June 6 at 10 a.m. was attended by school chief financial officer Lynden Swayze, school CEO Kathleen Riedlinger, board member Kristin Huston and two Lens reporters. No parents were in attendance.

While the budget doesn’t account for any revenue increases, expenses are expected to rise as the school continues to beautify its Fortier campus on Freret Street, Riedlinger said.

In other items on the budget agenda, Swayze indicated that Lusher has $11 million in reserve funds. Swayze defended holding that much money in reserve, saying it was necessary in order to prepare for future building improvements and to be prepared in case of emergencies. The reserves exist a result, she said, of conservative spending over the past several years.

Swayze explained that the cost of replacing Lusher’s air conditioners is estimated to be nearly $6 million; however, this project is not listed in the 2012-2013 budget. If it were, this cost would be approximately equal to the amount budgeted for regular teacher salaries, $6,061,568.

The school does not expect any excess revenues to be left from the 2011-2012 school year.

The staff and teachers are receiving a pay raise, with a 13 percent raise going to administrators and a 7.7 percent raise to teachers, Swayze said some teaching positions have been reclassified as administrators, thus providing more individuals with higher raises.

Swayze and Riedlinger also noted that the school’s contribution to the state’s teacher retirement system will be nearly $2 million this year. This represents a non-negotiable cost that the state requires schools to pay to cover benefits for retired teachers. The state is not bringing in enough money to pay for the system, so employers must make up the difference, Swayze said.

Swayze said she would prefer that the teacher benefit structure be changed and added that some teachers prefer 401(k)’s that can move with them relatively easily if they move out of state.

The budget meeting lasted 20 minutes.

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