BRADENTON -- In a surprise move, Manatee School Board members Monday unanimously approved delaying voting on the proposed district budget until the next school board meeting June 27 . Board members said they hope to save more teaching jobs and reduce financial cuts to the classrooms.
“I’ve always opposed cuts to the classrooms,” board Chairman Robert Gause said in explaining at least one of the problems he had with the budget cut recommendations.
Superintendent Tim McGonegal prepared two budget cut proposals. Each plan was updated for the Monday evening meeting. One recommendation called for an $11.192 million budget cut. The other suggestion called for a $17.313 million budget cut. Each proposal included: job cuts, furlough days, outsourcing of the maintenance department and taking dollars from elementary, middle and high schools.
Gause, however, presented his own budget proposal where about $16.4 million was cut from the operational budget. He offered a budget that didn’t impact the classroom. Teachers’ jobs were not eliminated. Plus, there were no furloughs included in Gause’s recommendation.
“I certainly would have a problem with building a year-in, year-out budget with furloughs,” Gause said.
He called incorporating furloughs in the budget a “one-year fix” and he wasn’t alone. Board member Karen Carpenter agreed.
“The idea of furlough days are a tactic in patchwork,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter offered her opinion of what needed to be included in the new plans.
“The superintendent needs to look seriously at consolidation,” she said. “Look seriously at our administration costs. I don’t think we’ve done that.”
Board member Julie Aranibar wondered if the board could make decisions Monday night considering certain departments haven’t been reviewed.
“We’re asking teachers to take cuts. We’re asking people to take cuts,” Aranibar said. “I don’t know if you can make that decision tonight.”
Nineteen people signed up during the hearing of citizens to speak to board members about the budget cuts. Many were concerned about the elimination of one art, music or physical education teacher at the elementary schools for $1.25 million. Gause did not include that budget cut in his recommendation.
Others who spoke during the hearing of citizens asked board members to save the job of the Willis Elementary School psychologist. Then there were those who believed board members made the right decisions in delaying the vote.
“They finally are working at actually trying to put a decent budget together,” Manatee County resident Peggy Martin said. “What the superintendent has put together is trash.”
Resident Mike Becks said, “They’re taking control of the process.”