With final approval of the Manatee County school district's 2014-2015 budget, the public can celebrate a quick financial turnaround from disastrous misappropriations and deficits under the previous administration.
Tuesday night's school board blessing of the $627.5 million budget opens a new chapter in the district's fiscal situation -- one on firm ground instead of quicksand.
The school board must be breathing a big sigh of relief after entering the 2013-2014 school year saddled with an $8.5 million deficit. Then the fiscal hole kept getting deeper and deeper with one disturbing development after another over the past year.
Among the setbacks during the year: State and federal auditors ordered the district to repay $7 million in misspent money.
Surprisingly, the district ended a stressful year with a $14.4 million fund balance after years of violating state law by failing to save the mandated 3 percent. The district managed a $28 million fiscal recovery during 2013-2014 despite all the challenges.
Next year looks promising, with a projected $16.5 million fund balance.
Superintendent Ricks Mills and his administrative team deserve all the credit. Now the district can escape financial distractions and put a strong focus on academic improvements.