Manatee schools budget options still under debate

ataylor@bradenton.comAugust 18, 2011 

BRADENTON -- At least one school board member isn’t convinced that any of three options being offered by School Superintendent Tim McGonegal on school finances is the right one.

School board member Julie Aranibar, who cast two negative votes previously on budget cuts and millage rates, said she doesn’t agree with the new options the board will discuss today.

The three options include going forward with the already proposed millage of 7.960, which could increase taxes for some homeowners; reducing the capital millage by .25 mills, which McGonegal says would mean the capital budget would have to be cut by about $6.1 million or reducing the millage by .320 mills, which McGonegal says would cause at least $7.8 million to be cut from the capital budget.

“The superintendent does his budget by starting out defending everything from last year,” Aranibar said. “I look at a budget which starts off with zero and you put in everything you need. I’d like to see the process handled differently.”

Aranibar said one way of figuring out what could be cut is by reviewing the budget line-by-line.

“I’ve asked for it,” she said about the line-by-line budget. “The fact that we’re signing off on it, tells me I’m responsible for it.”

But McGonegal said more cuts will have an impact.

“Almost all (options) will affect schools,” he said.

“It’s going to be a tough decision for the board.”

If board members vote on reducing the capital millage, projects will have to be delayed, McGonegal said. Capital projects that could be affected include the Palma Sola Elementary parent drop off extension and hurricane shutter repair. Lakewood Ranch High School’s athletic project and school computer purchases.

McGonegal says he is recommending that board members accept the full millage rate of 7.960. Taxes will increase for some homeowners depending upon the value of their home, said Jim Drake, assistant superintendent and chief financial officer. For a home valued at $169,000, taxes could increase by $53.14. But because of the reduction in taxable values, school taxes on the average home in the county will decrease by $3.63, McGonegal said.

Board members have approved a tentative millage increase and a $579 million budget for the 2011-2012 school year in a previous 3-2 vote with Aranibar and board member Karen Carpenter voting against it.

The budget will be finalized Sept. 8.

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