Kudos: Manatee school district paying back borrowed internal school account funds

August 24, 2013 

Manatee County Schools Superintendent Rick Mills listens during a May 2013 meeting at Rowlett Elementary School about the school's possible conversion to a charter school. Parents say one reason they want to convert is because the district took money from the school's internal accounts to help close a district budget deficit. FILE PHOTO/ TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

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Here's one more positive development in the Manatee County school district's budget for 2013-2014: Superintendent Rick Mills' financial recovery plan put a premium on repaying the internal school account funds appropriated as a critical component of repairing a budget shot full of holes.

The refunds will be spread out in equal payments over three years. The first electronic transfer already occurred.

Those internal accounts include revenue from campus vending machines, yearbook sales and after-school care.

Kudos to this reasonably quick solution.

In announcing the repayment plan, the district also attached a revealing document on each school's internal accounts.

Of the district's 52 traditional public schools -- 34 elementary, 11 middle and seven high schools -- the ones with the largest internal accounts as of April 10 were Manatee and Lakewood Ranch high schools, at $707,879.12 and $445,866.40 respectively.

Manatee's figure is impressive, but with a very large family of alumni, parents and teachers past and present over many decades, not too surpising.

Coming in third was Rowlett Elementary with $263,649.98 -- almost $100,000 higher than the next two elementaries. We figure that remarkable total reflects the deep parental involvement and dedication to the school.

Rowlett contributed $45,382.30 -- or 17.2 percent of the account -- to the district's budget fix.

Twenty-five other elementaries donated greater percentages as schools were allowed to determine how much money to transfer to the district.

Kudos to Abel, Ballard and Prine elementaries and Haile Middle School for committing almost half of their balances.

In Rowlett's campaign to convert to a public charter school, the internal account "donation" became one of the motivating factors, as was protecting the school's revered arts and communications programs from district cuts.

Parents and teachers voted overwhelmingly in favor of freedom from district interference in June, and the school board must soon decide on the school's application for charter status.

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