A $608 million tentative spending plan met with unanimous approval Tuesday from the Manatee County School Board.
Board discussion focused on how to present a clear and understandable budget for the public to promote trust and confidence in the Manatee County School District.
“It’s tough for anybody. It’s tough for board members to follow it completely,” board member Bob Gause said.
A final budget to be adopted Sept. 6 will rise above $608 million because additional internal service funds not yet finalized will be factored in.
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The 2016-17 tentative budget, which totals $608,263,176, doesn’t include any new programs or additions to the school district. The proposed budget starts with $16 million in general reserve and will end with about $12 million, which is a decrease, but still above the state-mandated 3 percent of estimated new revenues districts are required to maintain.
The board discussed different ways Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Roberts and budget director Heather Jenkins could balance answering community questions with continuing their work duties.
“I’m looking at efficiency and not duplicating the time answering questions that you need to be spending on massaging this budget and making sure it’s right where you want it to be,” school board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter said.
Roberts and Jenkins said they’d be willing to meet with the public and be available during board workshops to answer questions.
The board also approved changes to the student progression plan, which includes new ways to place high school students in college-level courses. The changes were a result of multiple workshops with many parents coming to the board with ideas and suggestions.
“It was really a team effort, a team collaboration, to make the progress that we did and really become a leader in the state,” board member Charlie Kennedy said.
Amy Lee, a parent and community leader on bringing changes to the student progression plan, said she was confident and happy in the student progression plan adopted.
“We need to maintain as much local control in the education system as we possibly can,” she said.
Just for Girls will no longer operate an elementary school charter but will be able to keep working with at-risk elementary school-age girls through a new contract approved unanimously by the board.
Under state statute, the school board had to vote to close the charter and Superintendent Diana Greene then recommended the new contract.
“I’m glad Dr. Greene managed to find a way around this,” board member John Colon said.