BRADENTON — The Manatee County school board Thursday approved a $706.8 million budget.
In separate, unanimous votes, board members raised property taxes by 2.29 percent and approved the final budget.
The 2009-10 millage rate will be 7.541, higher than last year’s 7.372.
That means a taxpayer with a home valued at $250,000 with a homestead exemption of $25,000 and no change in assessment will pay $1,696 in school property taxes, an increase of about $38.
District officials expect about $218 million from property tax revenue, down $26 million from the previous year’s $244 million.
Despite the millage increase for this school year, the district will take in less revenue. That’s because property values here dropped just less than 8 percent from $33.1 billion in 2008 to $30.5 billion in 2009.
Another reason: As of mid-summer, lenders had filed more than 3,600 foreclosure suits in Manatee County’s court system. There were 3,304 filed at the same point in 2008.
The budget had been tentatively approved at $697 million, but it jumped $9 million because the district received additional federal grants between the end of July and Thursday, said Jim Drake, the district’s assistant superintendent of finances.
“Until we get the award letter, they aren’t put into the budget,” Drake said. “They’re for having Title I schools and for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which is for our exceptional student education.”
Prior to the votes, Superintendent Tim McGonegal told board members that the budget from two years ago was almost $40 million higher than this year’s.
“The board should be proud,” McGonegal said.
He also said Manatee is one of 10 of the state’s 67 districts that this year reached agreements with its school union.
Derived from a 30-item plan, the budget is smaller than the $811.5 million 2008-09 budget.
Cuts total $14.2 million, and the budget represents the first of a three-year plan to reduce costs by about $25 million.
No employees will have pay cuts this school year.
Reductions include eliminating 48 district office positions ($4 million). Last year 68 positions were eliminated.
Also on the list: axing assistant principals in nine district schools ($900,000), and eliminating the allocation of 36 reading coaches ($1.1 million), reducing or eliminating elementary and middle school field trip allocations ($140,000) and turning Duette Elementary into a “contract site” ($118,000).
Duette, a five-room schoolhouse built in the 1930s, was slated to close this summer because the district is losing money due to low enrollment at the school at 40755 State Road 62.
But the board voted to keep it open until Dec. 18.It gave the Duette Education Foundation time to form a nonprofit organization to take over Duette.
If it does, the group will operate similar to a charter school, receiving 95 percent of the district’s allocation of state funding based on the number of students who attend the school.
The board did not impose an optional critical needs millage that lawmakers in July gave school districts the opportunity to implement.
An additional property tax of 25 cents per $1,000 of taxable value would generate just more than $7 million. Board member Walter Miller said that, with everybody hurting this year financially, it would not be requested.
“That’s not to say next year we won’t revisit it,” Drake concluded.