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Superintendent spells out schools' financial problems

BRADENTON -- Superintendent Tim McGonegal painted a grim financial picture of the immediate past and future of area schools, saying another $25 million in the budget will be eliminated in the next two years.

McGonegal, the keynote speaker Thursday at the Manatee County Tiger Bay Club, said one bright spot is that the district is expected to grow by at least 1,000 students in the coming school year. But the growth comes during a time when operational budget cuts continue to deepen, he said.

The district cut $46 million from its coffers in the past three years and 116 district positions were eliminated, he said.

“When we started cutting, we cut from the top,” he said. “We are not planning to eliminate electives. That would be poor judgment.”

To better prepare for the coming school year, a budget review committee is meeting during the next few months to turn “the organization upside down to see where we can cut money,” McGonegal added.

However, the district’s financial future also affects annual contracts. Contract talks between teachers and administrators have come to a standstill, McGonegal said. District administrators “want to make substantial changes to teachers’ contracts.”

He cited an increase in health premiums, which also is raising costs for the district.

McGonegal said district officials also considered closing one of the county’s 54 schools to reduce costs but then enrollment spiked, taking that option off the table.

Alan Anderson, with Manatee-Sarasota’s Home Builders Association, said McGonegal gave “one of the most comprehensive presentations” the Tiger Bay Club had seen.

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