Manatee County School District freezes all spending

eearl@bradenton.comMay 7, 2013 

MANATEE-- Just weeks from the end of its fiscal year, the financially strapped Manatee County School District will freeze all spending.

Since announcing it has virtually no reserves, the Manatee school district has scrambled to cut costs by eliminating purchasing cards, canceling purchase orders and freezing hiring.

"These measures should reduce our spending between now and the end of the fiscal year," said Superintendent of Schools Rick Mills.

A memo Mills sent to school board members and district employees indicated the entire district will need to be more fiscally responsible.

All spending that is not a statutory requirement for safety and health has been cut until July 1. Any spending deemed unnecessary will come straight out of staff salaries.

"We have to stop spending," said school board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter. "We only have seven weeks until the end of the fiscal year but this will definitely help."

Until the fiscal year ends June 30, schools will only have internal funding from vending machines, fundraisers, yearbook sales, ticket sales from athletic events and donations.

Any teacher or principal spending request must be approved by school district finance director Angela Fraser. A specific reason for the purchase, order number and cost must be included in any spending request.

Principals have been told to direct all media questions regarding spending cuts back to the district.

In the memo to the school board and district employees, Mills said the only way to partially recover money is to stop spending from district general funds.

School administrators are being asked to review all contracted employees for positions and services that can be cut. All non-contracted hourly positions have been cut since February. All overtime has been eliminated, with the exception of emer

gencies documented with an overtime approval form.

Only Mills can approve any exceptions.

Any district staffer who spends outside these boundaries will be billed for any unapproved spending or contracts, and the money will come out of their salary. They will also have to explain their actions to Mills.

Their department budgets will also be reduced for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

"I fully support the consequences," Carpenter said. "This is a very serious time. We need to be careful with our resources."

Because the fund balance will be far below the state required 3 percent, Mills will eventually have to notify the state school board. Mills said he will send the notice when he determines the district's financial projection for June 30.

Toni Whitt, education editor, can be reached at 941-745-7087.

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