LA MARQUE — After two hours of discussion Wednesday, school board members tabled a vote on a plan that would close the La Marque school district’s $2.9 million budget deficit, one day before the deadline.
It is the same plan Superintendent Ecomet Burley released last week that would fill a $2.9 million budget deficit by cutting nearly $5 million in expenditures over the next two years through consolidating campuses, laying off staff, summer furloughs and salary freezes.
The Texas Education Agency did not grant the district a second deadline extension for submitting a plan.
A motion to delay a vote on the plan passed 5-2 with board President Annie Burton and Trustees Edna Courville, Shirley Fanuiel, Edward Crawford and Nakisha Paul in favor.
Trustees Davey Jones and Joe Cantu voted against a delay.
Consolidating elementary schools would save the district about $1.6 million.
If adopted, students from Westlawn, Inter-City and Highlands elementary schools would be combined and moved into the La Marque Middle School building.
First- through fourth- grade students would be enrolled in La Marque Elementary School, and fifth and sixth grades at La Marque Intermediate at the same campus.
La Marque Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade students would be enrolled in La Marque Jr. High and moved to the vacated building with the largest capacity, which could be Highlands Elementary.
Burley said that if the Renaissance Academy is granted charter school status and increases its enrollment, the academy could be moved into a vacated building mid year or during a student holiday.
According to the plan, the academy will be renamed Simms Renaissance STEM Academy Charter School.
Finance Director Lori Alexander warned not to anticipate increased enrollment.
“To repurpose another building, unless we get a charter or additional funding, is a luxury we don’t have,” Alexander said. “We need to see what comes in. We’ve gone out on a limb too many times projecting enrollment will increase and making budget projections based on that.”
Two teachers from the academy might be laid off if the plan passes and the academy doesn’t get charter status.
Consolidation would transition all campuses into academies with a focus on science technology, engineering and math, according to the plan.
It will also necessitate an increase in the number of bus routes from 18 to 21, which transportation provider Durham School Services estimated would increase the district’s annual transportation cost to $1 million from $821,000.
There was no funding increase included for transportation in the 2013-14 school year, but Burley said the estimate might have been too high, so the issue was unresolved.
The district could save an additional $1 million by laying off 15 elementary school teachers and two principals, in addition to other support staff and administrators.
A five-day furlough and 10 percent salary reductions for all professional level employees would save another $1.3 million.
The plan is contingent on the district obtaining a loan from a private lender in July at 3 to 5 percent interest that it would pay back in three years.
It was audited and approved by Whitley Penn Auditing Firm.
“This plan assumes that everything goes according to plan and that nothing out of the ordinary happens,” auditor Selena Miller told the board.
No action on Burley’s contract
LA MARQUE — After a brief closed- door meeting to talk about Superintendent Ecomet Burley’s contract, La Marque school trustees did not take any action Wednesday night. Trustee Edna Courville had requested the contract review to look at the possibility of firing the superintendent.
The scheduled executive session on Burley’s contract lasted about 10 minutes. Trustees are scheduled to meet again tonight, but Burley’s contract status is not on the agenda.
At a glance
WHAT: La Marque School Board Meeting
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. today
WHERE: La Marque ISD administration building, 1727 Bayou Road