Manatee School District layoffs reach 282

School Board hears details of $14.8M in cuts

cnudi@bradenton.comMay 21, 2013 

BRADENTON -- The Manatee County School Board heard at a workshop Monday how the district administration plans to tackle a $14.8 million shortfall in next year's budget.

Cost-saving measures taken include trimming 282 jobs, implementing new accounting controls and hiring procedures, and instituting a hiring and spending freeze at the individual school level, Manatee County School District Superintendent Rick Mills,

Mills said the administration has taken necessary action to meet state requirements and resolve the district's financial crisis.

"We have not met our state-mandated fund balance for the past two years. This will be the third year," Mills said.

Mills said he has four budget priorities:

• meet the state-required 3 percent fund balance;

• distribute $22 million in state funds for teacher raises;

• provide school district employees additional compensation and reallocate resources to improve student performance; and

• return funds taken from individual schools for this year's budget.

The "Financial Recovery Plan" charts outlined $20.6 million in spending cuts and savings needed to balance the $288.4 million budget.

To obtain the sizeable cuts, school administrators laid off 282 employees, including 182 teachers notified last week.

The remaining $4.7 million will come from closing the old Manatee Technical Institute campus on 34th Street West, shifting air conditioning building temperatures to 77 degrees, eliminating 100 portable classrooms, selling 53 surplus vehicles and surplus real estate property, reducing the athletic budget 2 percent and reorganizing several departments.

Diana Greene, deputy superintendent of instruction, told the school board how layoffs were determined.

Of the teachers let go, 107 were what Green called basic full-time employee units, which included all first-year teachers, saving the district almost $6.5 million.

There was no mention of how many teacher contracts were not renewed and the schools where they teach.

Another 41 teachers were let go in the Rainbow program's non-core curriculum classes in the elementary school level, which reduced spending by almost $2.5 million.

More than $1.7 million was saved by terminating 24 Exceptional Student Education teachers and another $607,290 realized by terminating 10 English as second language teachers.

Greene said reductions were achieved by realigning class sizes and gave Bayshore High School as an example.

In the 2012-13 school year, there were 1,394 Bayshore High students, she said, with 66 teachers, The number of students for the 2013-14 school year is projected to be 1,279, or 115 fewer, so the number of "units" allocated to the high school will be 57, a reduction of nine teachers.

These calculations were done for every school in the district, Greene said.

Don Hall, deputy superintendent for operations, said administrators met April 22-25 with the Transition Task Force for a preliminary report.

The task force was established to help the school board recover from the managerial missteps that created the deficit.

The task force recommended reducing 186 teaching positions, but the administration team settled for 182.

Hall said the administration is working with human resources to provide letters of recommendation to laid-off employees explaining they were terminated for budgetary actions and not because of performance.

District financial officer Michael Boyer said he instituted several accounting safeguards to prevent the errors made in the last administration from reoccurring. Several board members praised Boyer for his work.

Mills' team recommended a $130,000 spending cut be made by contracting out internal audit services, but board member Bob Gause said this concerned the citizen committee, which works with that department.

Gause wanted to know if the recommendation was approved by the citizen committee.

"If they are ignored," he said, "they will ask why they should serve."

Gause also commented on receiving all this information as he arrived at the workshop meeting, saying it is hard to make a decision without having the data.

School Board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter said: "We're only 11 months behind with this budget, so we have a lot of catching up to do."

The school board will have preliminary budget figures by the second week of June, Boyer said, and a tentative budget by mid-July. The 2013-14 school budget is to be approved Sept. 10.

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