What a tumultuous week for the Manatee County school district, an emotional rollercoaster that ended Friday at its lowest point.
The Florida Department of Education is not letting the district off the hook one bit for past mismanagement, and Superintendent Rick Mills revealed the development Friday, calling the news "painful and disappointing."
The state is ordering the district to restore $4.1 million to the sales surtax fund for misspending the money on operating costs, a violation of state law.
Plus a federal audit determined $2.9 million had been wrongly spent and must be restored.
That's a $7 million hit on the district's general fund for the current school year, and that anticipated $8.2 million positive fund balance will plunge to about $1 million.
Both the state and federal governments should take into consideration the district's commendable financial turnaround and delay or amortize payments. Manatee County's legislative delegation should lobby for this at the state level, and Congressman Vern Buchanan should lend his voice to this on the federal level.
The week began with public furor mounting over the district's proposal to declare McKelvey Park surplus and sell the three acres adjacent to Miller Elementary School.
Mills arranged a public meeting at the school on Tuesday night and heard impassioned pleas from many in the crowd of several hundred. And he admitted he was swayed, announcing Thursday the district squelched the idea.
No doubt cheers arose in many homes, including that of David "Watchdog" Miner, the only school board member who opposed a sale. His letter to the editor below attests to his joy.
(We'll only mention several other developments: the implementation of a targeted spending freeze in the district, and the court action involving former and suspended staff.)
The week began with public outrage, changed to sighs of relief and delight, then fell to disappointment, as expressed by Mills over the restoration costs.
Let's hope next week brings some tranquility as the superintendent and his administration and the school board start digging out of this financial setback.