Jenna Loveless and Todd Smith

Louisiana School Board President Jenna Loveless and Superintendent Todd Smith. File photo

The Louisiana R-II Board of Education passed a 2019-2020 budget Monday—a process interrupted by a $5 million decline in assessed values in the school district

That’s the third year of declining assessed values for the district, and it means Superintendent Todd Smith had $216,132 less to work with than the year before as he drew up the budget. Monday’s unanimous vote approved the final version of a budget first presented in the summer, before the year’s assessments came in.

Smith told the board that he thought the budget he presented to them resolved the situation without serious consequences for the operations of the district—though he warned that the situation would have to be watched closely.

“I think we’re missing out on going forward. We’re not at the point where we’re cutting anything. I do think, as we go into the next budget year, we need to look at what cuts we can make. We probably need to think about how deep we want to go,” Smith said.

One potential cost on the horizon: the district has decided not to get a new school bus this year, but will probably have to consider doing so soon.

Smith said he’s struggled to anticipate swings in assessment, saying he hasn’t found a trend in the last 10 years — but told the board “I don’t see a lot of growth coming.

The proposed carryover in the budget — a financial cushion maintained to make sure the district can cover its expenses — of a little more than 27 percent, with a goal of reaching 28 percent—close to where it closed the last school year but below the 30 percent figure previously set as a goal.

“This budget, I don’t see any way it’s going to get to 30. I do think, with some managing of expenses, we might exceed that 28 to some degree,” Smith said.

Plans for mock crash

Louisiana high school students will get a dramatic education in the dangers of texting while driving—and local emergency responders a chance to practice for a real catastrophe—if plans for a mock car crash at Louisiana High School goes forward.

Pike County Memorial Hospital needs to do a mass casualty drill for training purposes.

Ten students would be involved. They would be recruited, according to a plan being drawn up by district officials with representatives of the fire department and the hospital, from the school’s drama students on a volunteer basis.

The volunteers would be transported by a variety of vehicles — including, possibly, a helicopter. The vehicles for the crash itself have already been donated.

Other students would be involved as spectators, and first responders from around the area would be invited to take part.

“We talked first about drinking and driving, but this texting is starting to surpass drinking and driving by a long shot,” said Jason House, who presented the idea to the board on behalf of the hospital and the fire department

The event is planned for a half-day on Oct. 17.

Enrollment increases reported

In a series of reports to the school board, Louisiana’s building principals presented modest increases in enrollment as the new school year began.

Louisiana Elementary reported a total of 351 students enrolled, grades pre-K-5. That’s an increase of eight students from last year.

Louisiana Middle School has 165 students enrolled, compared to 151 in 2018.

Louisiana High School has 220 students enrolled, compared to 214 the year before.

Send questions and comments to athorp@pikecountynews.com.

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