BRADENTON -- It’s back to the drawing board for school Superintendent Tim McGonegal after Monday’s seven-hour marathon school board meeting.
Board members asked McGonegal to come up with yet another plan to cut the budget after looking at his suggested $11.16 million cuts.
Board members are torn on what budget cuts to make. They questioned whether to have employees take furlough days or a 1-percent salary cut. They wondered if McGonegal’s proposal was enough. Plus, many board members were disturbed that there were still $700,000 in financial cuts to schools.
“I appreciate all the hard work everybody has put into this,” board Chairman Bob Gause said. “You’ve done your job at making a professional recommendation to this board.”
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Gause said that recommendations offered “philosophical differences” that he couldn’t agree on. But he continued to say he would step aside if he is in the minority on the issue.
School board members have scheduled a special meeting before July 27 -- when a budget has to be in place. At least two board members have asked for a budget workshop. Board member Julie Aranibar said she cannot decide between having furlough days and a 1-percent salary cut because she hasn’t gotten the information she has requested -- line items that illustrate district spending.
“How do I know it’s OK to cut when I don’t even know what I’m cutting?” she said.
Board member Karen Carpenter echoed Aranibar’s sentiments.
“In the absence of information it’s difficult to do any analysis,” Carpenter said.
Board member Barbara Harvey was concerned about dollars cut from the classroom.
“It’s time for the citizens of Manatee County and the state of Florida to say I value education,” said Harvey, who has 50 years in the district as an educator. “My concerns are that we have to be involved with budget cuts for our next generation of leaders.”
Board Vice Chairman Harry Kinnan agreed with Harvey and Gause that he didn’t want additional dollars taken from the classrooms. And when McGonegal questioned how much he should cut, whether $11 million or $17 million, Kinnan was adamant.
“I think $17 million shocks the system more than I want it to be shocked,” he said.
A date for a special meeting has not been set. However, board members have to decide how many jobs will be cut and what jobs will be held vacant. A decision must be made on whether dollars will be taken from the operational budgets of each school. Will dollars be taken away from school libraries? Plus, the most controversial: Will board members approve a salary cut, require furlough days to be taken or approve a plan that does both?
Manatee Education Association President Pat Barber said teachers have been watching the decisions of the board with great interest.
“Our members are very concerned about what kinds of things will be a consideration in the budget cuts,” she said. “No one is interested in having their salary cut or benefits cut or (health insurance) premiums increased. It’s hard to understand how any of those things help the community.”