Manatee County school district must resolve 'brutal' issues

April 29, 2014 

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Manatee County School Disitrct Superintendent Rick Mills talks during the Soup with the Supe event in March 2014 at the Bradenton Yacht Club in Palmetto.FILE PHOTO/GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

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I am responding to a letter which disparaged my "leadership style" on two separate issues discussed at the last meeting of the Manatee County School Board.

The first issue dealt with the potential sale of surplus property owned by the district adjacent to Miller Elementary School. The second involved approval of Internal Audit Services from Shinn and Company for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year.

The brutal facts facing this school district are these:

• This district has overspent its budget by more than $13 million the last two years.

• This district has not met the state-mandated fund balance (reserve account) of 3 percent five years in a row.

• This district faces up to $10 million plus in potential fines from the state of Florida.

We have virtually exhausted every avenue to reduce costs through our $20 million Fiscal Recovery Plan. This includes cuts in all district areas as well as the sale of surplus properties such as the Checker's property, a parcel near Braden River High, a parcel near Bayshore High and the Instructional Materials Center.

When residents came forward with concerns about the Miller property, I immediately organized a community meeting to be held at Miller. I look forward to that meeting Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Regarding Shinn and Company, there were actually two items on the last school board agenda that amounted to more than $53,000 in additional costs for the school district not accounted for in the district's budget for this school year.

Previously, I met with Board Chair Julie Aranibar, Byron Shinn and Deputy Superintendent of Operations Don Hall and we discussed those issues at length. The unanimous agreement reached at that meeting was to defer the contracts until the beginning of the new fiscal year, July 1. That is the recommendation I conveyed to the school board on April 22.

The school board voted 3-2 to include the services from Shinn and Company in this year's budget.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, I believe I have shown in the past year that all of my actions are taken in the spirit of honesty, transparency, collaboration and complete faith that working together we will prevail over all of our challenges.

Rick Mills, Superintendent, Manatee County School DistrictEast Manatee

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