In The News › New Orleans schools get $7.8 million in belated tax revenue

New Orleans schools get $7.8 million in belated tax revenue

By Danielle Dreilinger | The Times-Picayune

December 24, 2013

New Orleans public schools will have a little extra change to bring to those post-holiday sales, figuratively speaking. They’re getting about $7.8 million in 2012 sales tax this month — $198 per student – that the Orleans Parish School Board forgot to report last year.

Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard called it “this nice Christmas present.”

The Orleans Parish School Board runs or oversees only about one-fifth of the city’s 90 schools but it collects and distributes property and sales taxes for all of them. Last year, however, it closed the sales tax books one month early. Interim Superintendent Stan Smith said in October staff turnover caused the error.

Despite improvement in the system’s financial status since Hurricane Katrina, a Bureau of Governmental Research report this spring questioned how good a job the Orleans Parish School Board was doing managing the tax dollars that go to state-authorized schools.

For the most part, schools are receiving the $7.8 million based on their Oct. 1, 2012, enrollment figures. However, the year’s delay caused problems for the Recovery School District because 11 schools no longer exist. Four closed this summer, three were chartered, one was merged with another school and three charters changed management.

The Recovery School District initially thought to distribute the money for those students equally across all its schools. But instead staff tracked down where the students went and are sending the money to students’ new schools instead.

“In our own mind, it’s the only fair way,” Dobard said. “The money follows the child.”

Andrew Shahan, head of the group that took over Pride College Prep, said none of that money was counted on for the budget for the new Mildred Osborne charter school. Whatever they get, “it’s better than nothing!” he said. “And just a little bit of a cushion.”

Still in the School Board’s piggy bank: $39.1 million in surplus that’s piled up due to increases in property tax rates and home values, plus a Super Bowl sales tax boost. Dobard said he was continuing to talk with the School Board about getting to that pot of money.

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