Mannix About Manatee: School district's bad budget is bad deja vu

November 3, 2013 

We may have gone back in time last week and we didn't even realize it.

That it was near Halloween is appropriate, because it was scary.

Unfortunately, it wasn't make believe.

To wit:

The Manatee County School District revealed on Monday its budget was short $3.9 million in unaccounted expenditures.

The school board was shocked! Shocked!

"We were not prepared and the information was not provided ahead of time," said school board member David Miner.

If you think you've heard that somewhere before, you're right.

Can you say deja vu?

It was about a year ago when a multimillion dollar budget shortfall was divulged and forced Tim McGonegal's abrupt resignation as superintendent. Amidst a public outcry, it brought about an overdue and significant overhaul in the district administration, not to mention the arrival of a new superintendent, Rick Mills.

Well, here it is a year later and we're back to this bad budget business again?

This is stupefying.

A year ago when this issue reared its head, the causes could be attributed to rank incompetence and a flawed accounting system that was broken for years.

The right hand did not know what the left hand was doing.

So what's the excuse this time?

"Week to week, we are quite literally finding costs passed onto us that we hadn't anticipated," said Don Hall, a deputy superintendent of operations.

New costs?

Come on.

We've been down this road before.

Mills was given practically carte blanche to bring in a new team of management professionals, one whose foremost mandate was to balance the budget.

Surely, they had to be cognizant of the budgeting mistakes made by the last administration, what the consequences were, and the absolutely fundamental need not to repeat them.

Right?

Wrong.

How do you not budget for:

• $800,000 for Central High School teacher sal

aries moving into other schools after Central's closing?

• $717,000 for gifted teachers and volunteer pre-kindergarten teachers for Exception Student Education classrooms?

• $489,000 for Exception Student Education paraprofessionals to help students without teaching aides?

That's a $2 million oops!

The school board is culpable, too.

They were caught unawares last year because of their lack of oversight, and it happened again.

It seems they're more concerned about nonsense like policies for plaques and the proper protocol for the public comments portion at its monthly meetings.

After being embarrassed by the budget fiasco a year ago, you'd think the school board would be determined not to be left looking foolish this time around.

Some things never change.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Call Vin at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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