BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge School Board approved a 2014-2015 budget by a vote of 6-3 Thursday night. Outside the building, protesters held signs opposing the Louisiana State Legislature's decision to reduce the number of school board seats in large school systems like East Baton Rouge.
"We do a good job every day that we drive that bus and we want you to too," said longtime East Baton Rouge Parish school bus driver Cindy Kendrick.
Inside drivers like Kendrick demanded to know why the district's new salary schedule pays workers with many years of experience nearly the same as new employees. Board members like Dr. Kenyetta Nelson-Smith also showed concern as she questioned Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor about what she says are large pay raises for central office employees compared to minimal raises for drivers and food service workers.
"We ask our schools to cut their budgets four to eight percent, but yet you look at positions in this book that have increases as much as $14,000 and $19,000," said Smith. "I cannot agree with that."
"I don't want to play class warfare," answered Taylor. "I stand behind it. We thoroughly vetted this and you approved it."
Despite requests for salary comparison figures and the need for an earlier start to the budget process, the board approved the plan. Taylor says with the budget approval East Baton Rouge's general fund balance will dip to around 13 percent remaining in order to cover shortfalls throughout the district.
A comparison of bus driver and service worker salaries is expected to be presented at the school board meeting on July 24.