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Schools superintendent recommends cuts, tax increase

BRADENTON — The Manatee County school board is considering imposing a new school tax to avoid making classroom cuts.

The move is one of Superintendent Tim McGonegal’s proposals to close an $8.87 million shortfall in the upcoming 2010-11 school year’s budget.

If approved by the school board next month, the district could assess a .25 mill school tax that would bring in an extra $6.724 million in revenue.

The assessment could mean a taxpayer with a home valued at $167,000 with a homestead exemption of $25,000 and no change in assessment would pay $1,259 in school property taxes — an increase of about $35.07, said Jim Drake, the district’s assistant superintendent of finance.

Drake said it was too early to determine what this year’s millage rate would be, but he said it could be close to 8 mills. Last year the rate was 7.541 mills.

Last July, lawmakers gave Florida school districts the opportunity to impose a .25 optional critical needs millage. Although the millage was levied by 43 districts in 2009-10, the Manatee school district did not impose the tax.

But McGonegal said the new school tax is now needed to avoid cutting classes including gym, art and music in the district.

“We need to maintain our elective programs,” he told board members Monday night while presenting his final budget recommendations.

The school district has already slashed $44 million from its annual operating budget during the past two school years. Cuts stem from sharp declines in state funding caused by reduced state sales tax collections and decreasing property values.

On McGonegal’s list for cuts in the upcoming school year: reducing substitute teacher and aide pay by $7 per day ($261,000), hiring some high school teachers for the first semester only ($440,000) and eliminating district office positions ($750,000).

McGonegal said the district would use long-term subs for a savings of $462,500.

The district also plans to seek advertising for the interior of school buses, estimated to bring in about $100,000.

For the 2010-2011 school year, the district faces an additional expense of $4.7 million to hire more teachers to comply with the class-size amendment, which limits the number of students allowed in classrooms.

“Even with these additional classroom teachers, we still expect to have issues in achieving compliance,” McGonegal said.

Last year the district worked with a $706.8 million budget. The general operating budget was $325 million.

The school board is set to vote on the proposed cuts and the new tax at its next regularly scheduled meeting July 26 at the district’s administration building, 215 Manatee Avenue W., Bradenton.

In other matters the board:

n Hired Ann Broomes as G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary’s principal; Hayley Rio as Braden River Elementary’s principal and Jeanne Grazioli as Oneco Elementary’s principal. G.D. Rogers’ former principal Wendy Acosta is being moved to another school administrator position during the 2010-11 school year. McGonegal did not renew contracts for Oneco Elementary Principal Marian Summers and Braden River Elementary Principal Randy Mungillo. Summers retired this month while Mungillo — a former guidance counselor and physical education teacher — opted to return to the classroom.

n Hired Tillman Principal Diane Nichols as the district’s Title 1 director.

n Suspended without pay and granted an administrative hearing to G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary kindergarten Teacher Brook Rainville. Rainville, who has worked in the district since October of 1990, has established a pattern of excess absences dating back to the 1993-94 school year, according to an administrative complaint.

n Recognized 11 employees as 2009-10 Aspiring Leaders participants. They are: Shelly Buch, Abel Elementary; Bill Gaynor, Braden River High School; Dameon Headings, Palm View Elementary; Greg Klein, Instructional Technology Specialist; Geoff Marris, Braden River Middle School; Megan McCurry, Tillman Elementary; Cheryl McGrew, McNeal Elementary; Amy Murray, Miller Elementary; Damian Nesser, Palm View Elementary; Ernie Paredes, Technology & Information and Kelly Smart, McNeal Elementary.

The program is designed to provide a variety of experiences for those who want to develop leadership skills.

n Extended McGoneal’s contract through 2012.