Manatee school district to add 85 teachers to budget

eearl@bradenton.comAugust 30, 2013 

MANATEE -- The Manatee County School District must make major adjustments to its 2013-14 budget, including an additional $1.6 million for the five schools that will have an extra hour of reading every school day and the addition of 85 more teachers needed because student enrollment is up.

"The good news is that the district is growing. This is great news," said Don Hall, deputy superintendent of operations. "We need to stay ahead of the curve, and anticipate what is needed to be built into the budget."

The tentative budget currently totals $566 million.

The actual enrollment for middle schools and high schools in the district is 950 students more than initial projections.

According to Hall, 55 additional teachers are needed for growth, and 30 additional teachers will be needed in elementary classrooms to stay at the state-mandated student-to-teacher ratio of 18 students to a teacher.

The projected cost for hiring 85 new teachers for the 2013-14 school year is $4.3 million, with state revenue funding $2.1 million.

Pat Barber, president of the Manatee Education Association, said teachers will need to be hired after the district count Friday of how many students are in classrooms after the first 10 days of school.

"A majority of schools will be over the class-size amendment and will be posting positions," Barber said.

There will be quarterly department and school budget reviews, Hall said, so all departments understand their relation to the budget, and

make sure to stay within it all year.

"Each school only has so much money, and can't spend more," Hall said. "If someone wants to do x but does not know where the money will come from, they have to realize that means they can't do y. It is a cultural shift, and we need to maintain tight control on all levels and refrain from adding new programs."

Hall said the district is taking steps discussed back in May for cost containment. The cost savings originally included staff reductions, although that clearly will not be an option in 2013-14.

Barber also said no programs have been cut.

"There is too much growth to cut programs," she said.

Hall said the district expects to recover more funds through the sale of property.

The Bill Owens Annex building, which housed human resources, is still up for sale. In June, the school board voted against selling property behind King Middle School and outlying property at Braden River High School and Bayshore High School.

No further discussion on the sale of properties has been made.

In addition to hiring 85 teachers, budget adjustments include $1.6 million for the extra hour of reading classes at the end of the day for Palmetto, Daughtrey, Samoset, Orange Ridge-Bullock and Oneco elementary schools, which were in the state list of 100 lowest-performing elementary schools for reading.

It also includes $920,000 to complete making up the deficit from years past.

Hall said the district budgeted for a large deficit, but will need that much more to make it up. Hall said he is not surprised by the budget adjustments.

"These are costs that we have anticipated, but now we understand what they are," Hall said.

School board member Bob Gause said the board should consider trimming its budget.

"We have a retreat in Tampa, but does the district need to pay for that?" Gause said. "We may need to see how much money the board is spending and change it. The district needs every dime it can get."

Superintendent Rick Mills favored the idea of looking more closely at the budget.

"I applaud the effort. It is what we absolutely need," Mills said.

While Hall said the district budget is under control, not everyone is a believer, particularly concerning visibility of budget documents.

"I would like to see how the district physically arrived at its numbers," said Manatee County resident Norman Nelson. "Is every school getting the appropriate amount of money? It sounds like it, but I want to see something that shows it physically."

Byron Shinn of Shinn and Co., the district's newly contracted internal auditing firm, said the district website needs improvement.

"I would highly recommend improving the district's website for transparency," Shinn said. "As soon as the reports are ready, we should make sure they are there."

School board vice chairwoman Julie Aranibar said the school board will begin the budget process this October for next year.

Barber said she looks forward to the day when concerns over having the necessary fund balance are over.

"It impacts everyone in the district negatively," Barber said. "Money is taken from different places to build the fund balance."

Manatee County resident Linda Schaich said she is confident in this year's budget, although she said the district is doing in nine days this year what it did in nine months last year.

"I have faith in the people Mills has here now," Schaich said. "My biggest concern is getting the teacher formulas right."

The school board will vote to approve the final budget at a public hearing at 5:45 p.m. Sept. 9.

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

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