Manatee County School Board approves tentative $565M budget

eearl@bradenton.comJuly 30, 2013 

MANATEE -- The Manatee County School Board approved the millage rate and a tentative budget of nearly $565 million by a 4-0 vote at a public hearing Monday night.

School board member Dave "Watchdog" Miner was not in attendance.

"This is our best estimate and will be adjusted as needed," school board chairwoman Karen Carpenter said.

The school board will have a $5.3 million tax revenue increase from increased property values and an additional $17.3 million from the state. The district will have a total revenue increase from state and local funding of $22,757,564.

Of the increased revenue, $8.1 million is allocated for Gov. Rick Scott's teacher salary increase, $4.3 million is for basic funding for full-time student enrollment, $4.2 million goes toward charter schools, $3.6 million for a 2 percent increase in the Florida retirement system and $195,000 is set aside for possible increases in Exceptional Student Education students, which is something Chief Financial Officer Michael Boyer said has not been done in the past.

"We had to spend in a deficit because we had not set aside for it," Boyer said.

There is an additional cost of $19 million for fiscal recovery and other funding requirements, which includes:

• $10.3 million to build a state-mandated reserve of 3 percent for next year

• $6.3 million to recover from the 2012-13 fiscal year deficit

• $1.5 million in non-instructional district staff raises of 2 percent with the exception of senior staff and

• $1.1 million in additional reserves for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs.

Boyer said the district will need to budget an additional $2.8 million for fiscal year 2014-15 for 88 para-professional positions such as parent liaisons and teacher assistants. Boyer said these positions are covered by grants this year.

Boyer said the district financial team went to the state board of education last month for a resolution to use school textbooks funds as district general fund money.

"This frees up the money for uses other than textbooks," Boyer said.

Boyer said $4 million is set aside for textbooks.

"There will still be plenty of textbooks as we roll out Common Core," Boyer said. School districts statewide are transitioning from Next Generation Curriculum into the Common Core Standards curriculum, a federal move for standards-based uniformity in education.

So far, the district is yet to release an itemized breakdown of the budget, which totals $564,891,871

A 20-page proposed budget document was made available online Friday, but with the exception of including Superintendent Rick Mill's budget letter to district employees, it did not differ from the 17-page document the board received before the special budget meeting Thursday.

Mills said Monday he plans to meet with all board members to go over the budget in detail over the next few weeks in preparation for the Aug. 29 public hearing regarding the budget.

The school board will continue to help adjust the tentative budget before approving a final budget Sept. 9.

School board member Robert Gause said he wanted to see a comparison of this year's proposed budget to last year's budget. Mills and deputy superintendent of operations Don Hall said the previous budget was too flawed for useful comparison.

"We can show a comparison to last year, but it's not going to mean anything," Hall said. "It's invalidated."

Hall said a line-item budget will be available online by the next public hearing.

"The expenditures and revenues match, and this is the first time they have in a long time," Hall said.

Hall said the school district has budgeted refunding 33 percent of the schools' internal accounts the district borrowed to bulk up its reserve.

Some money set aside for specific categories, such as textbooks or donations from parents for a specific cause, cannot be touched by the district. However, Boyer said the district can borrow from some internal school accounts.

Boyer and Hall said the district might not be able to pay back all the money it borrowed.

"We can't reimburse for money that never existed," Hall said. "Some of the schools showed money left in their accounts, but the district had already spent that money somewhere."

Boyer said the school district will need to allow "wiggle room" in its budget to keep on track this year.

"Everything under the sun must be budgeted for," Boyer said. "There is a lot that added up that didn't look significant."

Hall said the district hopes to start the budget process earlier in the future.

"We will have a realistic budget framework by June or maybe May, designed to start the whole process much earlier," Hall said Monday. "You will know if things are in the budget or not."

Mills said the intent will be to have regular budget reviews with individual department heads and board members.

Mills also expressed his desire for transparency in the budget planning.

"We are welcoming of the opportunity for community members to sit down with the finance team to ask questions about the budget," Mills said.

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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