Manatee School Board members debate raise for themselves

Herald StaffJune 18, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Manatee County School Board members went back and forth about a $1,400 annual raise for themselves at a workshop Tuesday evening.

Board member salaries cannot exceed that of a first-year teacher in Manatee County. That amount was not disclosed during the meeting and discussion surrounding the proposed raise was stalled pending verification of it.

Board member Dave "Watchdog" Miner said he wouldn't accept a raise.

"What I think would be right in this issue may not be right for other people here, and I don't want to in any way let my decision denigrate the decision of anybody else," he said, adding he would respect anyone who chooses otherwise.

Board member Barbara Harvey stressed the importance of board members coming to a consensus.

"It's time that we unify," she said. "That's what a team does."

The raise was part of a larger discussion surrounding the school board's $1 million proposed annual budget, which also includes requests for new personal tablets and a $315,000 budget for the board's internal auditor.

The school board's proposed budget totals $1,015,845 for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

During the workshop, board members also spoke at length about Shinn and Co., the internal auditor for the school board. The Bradenton-based accounting firm is budgeted to earn $315,000 for the 2014-15 year, but some members expressed hesitation about spending so much.

"The last thing I want to sacrifice is audit," board member Karen Carpenter said. "We cannot go backward on having a fully empowered, vigilant audit committee and audit function."

Harvey said she felt the board had hired a solid com

pany.

"I really like Shinn and Company a lot, and the data that I'm getting back from them is readable," Harvey said. "I also know that that's a lot of money and I don't know if it is fair, even for Shinn and Company, for me to say: 'I'm going to give you this because you did that well.'"

Harvey said she wants a recommendation from the Audit Committee before the board makes a final decision on Shinn & Co.

The Manatee County School District's overall budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year is $568 million, but the district is still struggling to bring its reserves to $10.3 million as required by the state. The district is on track to have an approved budget by September, but state and federal audit findings requiring the district to pay back money misused in the past has made putting a balanced budget together more difficult, officials have said.

Auditors ordered the Manatee County School District to restore about $7 million in funding it has misspent in past budgets. Prior to the audit, district officials predicted an $8.2 million fund balance by June 30 at fiscal year-end.

Restoring the misspent money will reduce the fund balance to about $1 million before the end of the year, significantly below the estimated state-required $10.3 million.

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. You can follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.

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