Manatee school budget proposal could cut as much as $17 million

ataylor@bradenton.comMay 17, 2011 

BRADENTON -- School Superintendent Tim McGonegal came one step closer to revealing the full impact budget cuts will ultimately have on the district’s operational budget for 2011-12.

McGonegal told board members during Monday’s workshop that he will complete two budgets by May 23. One will cut $11.12 million from the coming year’s budget -- a total derived from the general fund changes in revenue and expenses due to the recently closed legislative session.

The other budget will include establishing a 60-day, $5.9 million reserve for the health insurance fund, which has about a $10 million deficit. That budget, McGonegal said, will cut about $17.02 million.

McGonegal offered no specifics on what areas in the district will see decreases. He just said that each of the budgets will be presented to board members. However, the board will not be expected to vote on the budget during the May 23 meeting.

“We’re consistently cutting the dollar amount,” McGonegal said in explaining district officials’ game plan for the operational budget each year a funding cut is required.

Not all school districts are shaving dollars off their operational budgets, McGonegal said. Instead, other district officials have opted to dip into their reserve funds or other funding sources.

“That’s a Band-Aid on a cancer,” McGonegal said describing what some districts are doing to keep up with deepening cuts. “The next year they’ve just got to cut more.”

Schools Chief Financial Officer Jim Drake gave board members a presentation of some of the financial challenges the district will have to face. He said the total funding per student is down by $542.03 or 7.96 percent.

“The 2011-2012 school year’s budget is lower than the 2002-2003 school year,” Drake said, comparing the year the base student allocation came to $3,537. The coming school year’s base student allocation is equivalent to $3,479, Drake said.

Other school-related changes made during the legislative session affected district employees’ retirement and class size, Drake said. Employees are now required to add a 3 percent contribution to their retirement.

Drake reassured board members that district officials heard their concerns regarding class sizes.

“You want us to make class size,” he said.

That will be easier when considering the new change to the Class Size Amendment. The district will be allowed to add three students to classes in kindergarten-third grade and five more students in fourth-12th grade classes.

“We’re very pleased to have this kind of relief,” McGonegal said.

Drake said that next school year, the district is one of five in Florida expected to grow with at least 1,000 additional students.

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