Times are hard, the state budget is in the dumpster with devastating cutbacks to Medicaid, state hospitals and higher education, and layoffs of state employees abound, thanks to the untimely combination of privatization and revenue shortages.
But not to worry: the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA), which recently advertised to fill a $76,000-a-year position—restricted to agency employees only, thank you very much—on the heels of the layoff of 58 employees, is going forward with its annual off-site annual Strategic Planning Session for upper management at a cost of $3,500 to the agency.
LOSFA Executive Director Melanie Amrhein did say that in years past both days of the session have been held off-site (at $6,000 cost for each of the past three years, according to records provided LouisianaVoice subject to its public records request). Those costs include a $1,000 set-up cost and $2,500 per day for the session at the conference facilities of SSA Consultants, Inc. of Baton Rouge, complete with the obligatory “facilitator.”
The session will be held Aug. 30-31.
Amrhein said this year only one day of the session will be held at SSA with the other day of the event to be on-site. “It will be for one day instead of two,” she said of the SSA session, “and the cost will be one-half.”
Actually, assuming SSA will still charge the usual $1,000 set-up fee, the fee would be $3,500, or 70 percent of the usual cost, for about a dozen people expected to attend, she said.
Amrhein said it was considered “important to be away from our building with the facilitator” during the session in order to avoid distractions that would likely occur if held in the LOSFA offices.
During former Gov. Mike Foster’s administration, eight new state office buildings were constructed–each containing meeting rooms of all sizes designed to accommodate meetings, seminars and conferences. State agencies are not charged for use of the state facilities.
LOSFA is located in the Galvez Building at the corner of North and Fifth Streets in downtown Baton Rouge, within two blocks–easy walking distance–of three of those buildings.
Asked why the LOFSA Strategic Planning Session was not scheduled for one of the other seven buildings, Amrhein said, “It’s always been held off-site, or at least since I arrived here in 1999.”
“We need a five-year plan by July 1, 2013. That’s why this session is important,” she said.
“It’s not going to be restricted only to executive staff,” she said. “All directors in the office will be attending. Every division or agency in the state is encouraged to do this.”
She said the cost of the event will not come from state general funds, but from fees collected by the agency.
LouisianaVoice had requested a copy of this year’s contract along with those provided by LOSFA but it was not provided with the rest because, Amrhein said, “It has not been finalized yet.”
The 58 employees were laid off last month when LOFSA ceased guaranteeing student loans after the office’s loan program was ordered outsourced by Gov. Piyush Jindal.