A portion of the “racino” revenues that state Treasurer John Kennedy says “rightfully belongs” to the St. Landry Parish School System has been restored to the struggling district after Gov. Bobby Jindal unsuccessfully tried to funnel the money to the state’s Medical Assistance Trust Fund (read DHH).
According to a joint press release from Kennedy’s office and Democratic state Rep. Ledricka Thierry of Opelousas, $800,000 has been restored to the St. Landry Parish Excellence Fund, a state fund set up to support St. Landry Parish public education by dedicating 5 percent of taxes collected from the Evangeline Downs Racetrack and proceeds from the casino’s slot machines. According to The Daily World, the fund had somehow acquired a $1.8 million reserve, which Jindal tried to take from the local school district and move to state coffers.
Though Thierry is still working to recoup the rest of the money in the fund, the $800,000 is good news for a school board that, according to The Daily World, “would find itself $4 million in the red by July and with an $8 million deficit by December” without the cuts it has proposed to its roughly $100 million budget.
The school district’s finances are so dire that the system faced potential state takeover last week, but the state’s Fiscal Review Committee voted against the drastic move, according to the press release:
“This is not state money. This is money that rightfully belongs to St. Landry Parish,” says Kennedy. “We’re very happy to expedite this request and help ease some short-term budget pain to the St. Landry Parish school system.”
Treasurer Kennedy is a member of the state Fiscal Review Committee that voted last week to avoid a state takeover of the system. At the meeting, he was very critical of the Governor’s proposal in his Executive Budget to “sweep” the St. Landry School District’s “Racino” funds into the state budget.
“Our committee has reviewed the system’s finances, and while they most certainly have challenges to face in the short and long term, we are going to give the new board and new superintendent the time to execute a plan that works,” says Kennedy.
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