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Manatee schools could get $29M less in budget

MANATEE -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s budget recommendation for Manatee County schools would cut nearly $29.86 million for the 2011-12 school year and $3.3 billion for education statewide over the next two budget years.

Scott announced his proposed budget Monday in Eustis and Tallahassee.

“There is no cut to education out of the state general revenue funds,” Scott said in Tallahassee after announcing his full budget cuts. “This is a jobs budget. We’re going to find ways to save money. We’re not cutting any money that came from state education.”

Jim Drake, schools assistant superintendent of finance, said that Scott did not recommend making up the federal funding that school districts will lose after June. That reduction coupled with the district’s elimination of the quarter-mill tax and reduced property taxes looks to substantially hurt the district, according to Scott’s proposed budget, Drake said.

Drake admitted that he was just reviewing Scott’s recommended budget. After briefly studying the report, he said that he and Schools Superintendent Tim McGonegal expected to cut about $10 million-$15 million for the 2011-12 school year. With Scott’s proposal, they would have to cut more.

“At this point, I’m not doing anything other than taking a look at it,” Drake said.

Drake said proposed budgets are just that -- a recommendation. He said the state House and Senate still have to vet the budget. As an example, Drake said former Gov. Charlie Crist’s recommended budgets used to be “more optimistic.”

“This one, I believe, is on the other end of that spectrum,” Drake said about Scott’s budget.

Diane Lang, president of Palmetto Family Organization, said she could not fathom school officials cutting more than $20 million from area schools in a given year.

“I would hate for the public schools of Manatee County to cut more things out,” Lang said. “I hope lawmakers consider the kids. Our future is our kids. We need funds to educate in a well-rounded environment.”

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