Manatee school district releases line item budget

eearl@bradenton.comAugust 24, 2013 

MANATEE -- The Manatee County School District released a line item budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year Friday evening in anticipation of a public hearing Aug. 29.

The budget is tentative, and the final budget must be approved in September.

The $565 million budget includes $10.3 million to build a state-mandated reserve of 3 percent for next year, $1.1 million in additional reserves for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs and $4 million for textbooks. Last year's budget was $555 million. Deputy superintendent of operations Don Hall said the district is following the financial recovery plan to save money, which includes staff reductions and utility cost reductions.

Hall said most of the instructional staff have been hired, although as of Friday night, he was uncertain of the difference in personnel between this year and last year.

"There are not a lot of big changes if you look line item by line item," Hall said.

Student enrollment last year

was at more than 44,100 students. This year, enrollment on the first day of school was at 45,800 students.

The line item budget, organized by individual schools, showed little to no changes in individual school budgets from the 2012-13 budget year.

Superintendent Rick Mills was not available for comment.

School board chairwoman Karen Carpenter said that comparing this year's budget to last year's budget is difficult because numbers in the past have not been accurate.

"I don't know how much I can compare the budgets because the information wasn't accurate," Carpenter said. "It was primitive."

School board member Bob Gause said the board members did not receive the line item budget until 9 p.m. Thursday night. "The district had to build this [budget] from scratch," Gause said. "They were scrambling to meet a deadline to get this out, which was a big task for them."

The line item budget is broken down by each individual school by costs, including personnel and facilities.

Gause and Carpenter said that this style of a line item budget is something the district has not done before.

"They really tried to make sure everything that was a cost is included in this budget," Gause said.

The district released the line item budget online just before 5 p.m. Friday to give the board and the public time to review it before the hearing set for Thursday, although the budget document came with no other documents for comparison.

School board member Dave "Watchdog" Miner said he hopes to have time over the weekend to look over the line item budget before the school board meeting Monday.

While Miner said he could not comment on figures in the budget because he had not yet seen the document, he said he expects "enormous changes" in the way the approval of a final budget is handled.

"It will be a credible budget, taking into account expenses during the fiscal year, in contrast to budgets where there was a failure to properly budget for so many items," Miner said. "That is what led to the financial disaster we have had to deal with."

This year's budget will have to address the deficit from prior years, which is about $6.3 million.

The public hearing for the budget is set for 5:45 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29. The proposed line item budget can be viewed at manateeschools.net/hot_topics/pdfs/budget_2013-2014/Line_Item_Detail_Budget.pdf.

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

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