Manatee school district revamping its budget process

ataylor@bradenton.comOctober 22, 2011 

BRADENTON -- Manatee County School District officials have revamped their budget process, eliminating a long-time committee, and residents plus one political party are crying foul.

Gone is the community-based budget committee that was once relied upon to give fresh ideas about what can be added or eliminated to the budget. Instead of a community committee, school board members will hold a series of workshops throughout the year before reaching final votes on the budget.

“I believe this new process will allow our board members to hear first-hand all of the important budgetary issues confronting our district,” Superintendent Tim McGonegal said by news release. “This new process will give the entire community a chance to provide input along the way so that many, many voices can share in these decisions.”

Manatee resident Linda Schaich was on the budget committee last year. She believes the most recent committee went against the grain.

The group was “too diligent to our duties,” she said. “We didn’t just rubber stamp school board members’ financial wants.

“I’m very upset about it,” Schaich said about the changes to the budget process. “It comes at a time when the public is demanding more transparency. This appears to be an insensitive demonstration of the disdain with which the superintendent regards the public.”

McGonegal disagreed.

“I really want to involve the school advisory councils,” he said. “I really want to involve businesses. The only way to do that is to use social media. We’ve got to get to a larger audience.”

School Board Chairman Bob Gause said workshops -- scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Oct. 31 -- will give the public an opportunity to give input about the process.

“The public has more access,” Gause said, referring to the times residents can come to the workshops.

Gause views the changes to the budget process as a step in the right direction. This way, the board won’t be reacting to the changes required from the state, he said. “To me, it’s being proactive,” Gause said. “The board isn’t waiting until May or June to see what (budget) recommendations come from the superintendent.”

Tea Party of Manatee offered its own Facebook post on the issue of disbanding the budget committee Friday: “The superintendent is going to leave the budget up to the school board and as we have already seen, there are some on the board who will vote for whatever the superintendent wants without any questions and against the taxpayer.”

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