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Schools are in the pink - and the black - as tax revenues soar

Shonna Riggs -   Jan 25, 2007

The St. Charles Parish School Board has released its comprehensive annual report - and the numbers are good.

They show that sales tax revenue increased $10 million in 2006 compared with 2005.

"It's a nice book," schools Superintendent Rodney Lafon said at at a Finance Committee meeting.

The report was prepared by the school district's finance department and independently audited.

School system comptroller Jim Melohn said Hurricane Katrina, which struck the area Aug. 29, 2005, boosted sales tax collections.

People stood in line to buy food and other items from retailers like Wal-Mart. And sales of building materials used by homeowners to repair their damaged houses shot up, too, Melohn said.

Automobile sales tax revenue also rose due to new car sales, he said.

Also contributing to the rosy financial picture was the $1.5 million received in a partial settlement of a lawsuit against Shell Oil.

The suit, filed in 2003, had sought $152 million in taxes it claimed the company owed St. Charles Parish, which includes both the schools and parish government.

In fact, a disputed tax on fuel oil is still in court.
The school board's annual report showed revenue in the general fund rose from $93.2 million in 2005 to $107.3 million in 2006. Expenditures rose from $84 million in 2005, to $91.7 million in 2006.

The general fund's "undesignated" balance rose by $11.4 million, from $17.9 million in 2005 to $29.3 million in 2006, mainly because of sales taxes and state aid, the report said.

Overall, the general fund balance rose from $27.1 million in 2005 to $44.5 million in 2006, including amounts reserved for encumbrances and some designated costs, such as new school buses, annual school maintenance projects and insurance.

The board set aside $5 million in the balance to cover hurricane and flood damage not covered by federal flood insurance under Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations, Melohn said.

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