The 2016-17 spending plan for the Manatee County School District was met with quick approval by the board Tuesday.
With a unanimous vote, the five members of the board signed off on the $692,885,320 spending plan. The board first approved a tentative budget earlier this summer and held two workshops so board members could ask more detailed questions before Tuesday’s vote.
“I want to thank the finance department and the staff who did a lot of work,” board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter said.
Citizen Glen Gibellina told the school board he didn’t think the proposed extension of the half-cent sales tax to benefit the school district would pass this November unless the school district decided to charge the full rate of impact fees right away.
“Let’s do the right thing. This half-cent sales tax is not going to pass as long as you keep the prices reduced on the impact fees,” Gibellina said.
Right now, impact fees for the school district are being re-implemented on a three-year schedule, collecting 50 percent of the maximum-allowed amount the first year, then increasing to 70 percent the second year and 100 percent the third year
In early August, board member Charlie Kennedy floated the idea of doing exactly what Gibellina proposed. At the last meeting, board members postponed voting on that, effectively keeping the original schedule in place.
The sales tax revenue brings in about $30 million for the school district, and it is considered an important and necessary part of the district budget by officials. Without the sales tax, district officials said they won’t be able to cover the cost of building new schools to handle continued student growth.
A look to the south shows citizens who actually “put their money where their mouths are,” citizen Norm Nelson told the board during the meeting.
Sarasota County voters, by referenda, authorized the collection of extra property taxes to help benefit the school district. That helps give Sarasota schools a leg up on Manatee schools.
“For those who say it can’t be done, get out of the way of those who are doing it. And Sarasota is doing it,” Nelson said.
During the meeting, the board also approved the unaudited 2015-16 annual financial report.