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Superintendent proposes $14.1 million in school budget cuts

MANATEE — Manatee schools Superintendent Tim McGonegal proposes to cut more than $14 million from the district’s operating budget for next school year, according to a memo released today.

The plan does not include pay cuts for employees, but the proposal, if implemented, would result in many slashed positions and lowered funding for extracurricular activities. McGonegal plans to introduce his plans to the school board in a meeting tonight. The board is expected to vote on the cuts on June 8.

The proposal came after many months of meetings and workshops with the school board and a special committee made up of Manatee residents.

Among the items on McGonegal’s list are 50 positions in the district office; 36 reading coaches; assistant principals in schools with fewer than 575 students; aides; and turning Duette Elementary into a “contract site.” Those would save the district about $14.1 million.

McGonegal also proposes setting aside $5 million in the district’s Rainy Day Fund, in addition to the reserves required by the state.

State lawmakers added a law this year that requires districts to have at least 3 percent of its operating funds as reserves. McGonegal plans to have a 4 percent reserve next year, which is $12 million. With the special fund, that would bump Manatee schools’ total reserves to $17 million next school year.

McGonegal increased the reserves to deal with unexpected cuts that may come in the middle of the school year, due to property tax collection shortfalls or enrollment decline.

McGonegal said the district will receive some relief from federal stimulus dollars of about $14 million. But the district would still have to cut $25 million over the next three years.

“We cannot wait until year 3 to make the $25 million in cuts,” McGonegal wrote in the memo. “We need to begin today to size our organization to the revenue available.”