BRADENTON -- Manatee County school board members approved by a 3-2 vote to cut $14.04 million in the operational budget for 2011-2012.
First, board members approved Superintendent Tim McGonegal's reorganization plan, cutting $1.8 million. That plan eliminates or holds about 28 positions. That passed by a 3-2 vote.
Then board members approved by a 3-2 vote the full plan of budget cuts worth $14.04 million.
Board members Julie Aranibar and Karen Carpenter voted against each measure. Each said they were concerned about cutting teachers' salaries without a full vetting of the budget, including consultants' fees.
"This whole process is really unfortunate," Carpenter said. "We're all adults, and I know we care for teachers and students. But this has been the most fumbling-bumbling system I think I've seen."
Board Chairman Robert Gause agreed that the year has been different.
"It's been a year of change," Gause said. "It's been a tough year."
The four residents who signed up to speak agreed with Carpenter and Gause. That number of residents, however, pales in comparison to the scores who spoke during regular board meeting hours after 5:30 p.m., in June.
Richard Green was one of those people.
"This budget proposal before you represents fantasy financials," Green, who was a member of the district's budget committee, said. "There is no plan here."
Green told board members that there was "only a hope and a dream" that state dollars for education will be available next year.
Then, Green added, board members will find themselves next year right where they are now --- creating a patchwork budget, he said.
The budget was made up by school Superintendent Tim McGonegal after the last school board meeting on June 27. McGonegal increased the budget cuts from $11.68 million to $14.04 million.
For weeks, McGonegal would not add salary cuts to his proposed financial cuts. He believed those cuts would affect employee morale.
After learning the consensus of board members, McGonegal included a 5 percent salary cut for higher paid employees and a 3 percent pay cut for teachers.
McGonegal also requested a spring break shutdown for the district office saving about $245,000.