Audit findings mean Manatee Schools must cut $9.3 million from 2014-15 budget

Posted by MARC R. MASFERRER on May 2, 2014 

MANATEE -- The Manatee County School District on Friday delivered to its constituents more grim financial news, as it tries to remedy the mismanagement and other errors in its past.

At a news conference, Superintendent Rick Mills revealed that state and federal auditors were ordering the district to "restore" to past budgets about $7 million in grant funding that had been misspent.

Mills said the auditors' findings were "painful and disappointing," in light of how hard district officials have worked to close financial deficits.

Most of the misspending was in programs funded by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The money will come out of the current fiscal year budget. Add in what the district needs in order to bring its reserves to the required level for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, and the hit to the district is about $9.3 million that will have to be cut from the 2014-15 budget, which takes effect July 1.

Mills said "all options" will be considered as his administration works to fix a fiscal mess that the auditors noted date back to administrations led by his predecessors Tim McGonegal and Roger Deering.

Mills, who was flanked by three school board members and top members of his staff, said any cuts will be "furthest from the classroom."

At the news conference, Mills acknowledged that selling McKelvey Park could again be considered. He announced Thursday the park would not be sold, "at this time."

Early Friday afternoon, schools spokesman Stephen Valley issued a statement to clarify that any sale of McKelvey Park "is off the table and the property will not be considered to cover the current budget shortfall."

Mills "is not wavering from his the statement he issued yesterday that he will not request the three-acre parcel adjacent to Jessie P. Miller Elementary School be surplussed and considered for sale," Valley said.

Mills said he knew on Monday that the news from the state would not be favorable for the district.

Mills was reluctant to talk specifically about the mistakes of the past, but he made clear that's where the blame for the current woes lies.

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