Manatee school district fund balance balloons to $14.3 million

mdelaney@bradenton.comAugust 20, 2014 

BRADENTON — Manatee County School District officials released preliminary plans Tuesday to spend additional money in the 2013-14 fiscal year-ending fund balance, including investing an additional $5 million each for school staffing and instructional resources for children in kindergarten through grade 8.

The district will have a final fund balance by the end of August, but the current year-end estimate is $14.3 million, officials said in a release Tuesday.

In addition to extra money for school staffing and instructional resources, the district plans to repay money taken from school internal funds, invest in employees with “salary enhancements,” provide armed security in elementary schools and buy a new payroll software, budget and finance system designed to improve customer service, officials said.

Details on each of these plans are not available yet. Superintendent Rick Mills will present the priorities at the Manatee County School Board meeting Tuesday.

Earlier in the year, officials projected a much lower fund balance after an audit required the district to replace misspent and mismanaged state funds.

The fiscal year ended June 30, but the projected fund balance continued to grow during the summer as the district closed out its books.

Part of the growth in the fund balance came from a spending freeze implemented in May, officials said. The freeze was expected to save $1 million, but ended up saving more than $3 million, according to the district.

The district will also receive $1 million more in property tax revenues than it budgeted, officials said.

Every year, the district budgets for 95 percent of projected revenues and adjusts the amount once it receives all revenue. In July, district officials told principals they were rolling out a plan to reduce the supplemental budget, eliminating duplication and limiting the number of stipends an individual can receive. And a lag in filling district positions saved the district money as well, said Don Hall, deputy superintendent of operations, at the Aug. 12 board meeting.

“We’re still looking at the books,” Hall said last week. “We know there are some other areas we have to close out.”

This will mark the first year since 2009 the school district will hit a state-mandated minimum amount of money in the fund balance. District estimates exceed the state-mandated 3 percent minimum, officials said.

“As we move forward together, we need to make sure we maintain fiscal discipline, full transparency and align all of our spending decisions to the district’s strategic plan,” Mills said in a press release.

Some priorities have already been purchased, including more than 6,100 Lenovo “ThinkPad,” laptop/tablets, which been distributed to classrooms. Purchasing carts for charging and storing the ThinkPads is on the school board agenda for next week.

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

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