Manatee school officials expect as much as $15 million in budget cuts

BRADENTON — School officials announced this morning they anticipate between $6 million and $15 million in potential budget cuts for the 2010-11 school year.

“The system of taxation is broken,” Manatee County schools Superintendent Tim McGonegal announced during the quarterly Manatee CEO Roundtable meeting this morning at the school district’s administration building. “We’re relying too heavily on property taxes. Something’s gotta happen because it’s just gonna get worse.”

McGonegal said he and Assistant Superintendent of Finance Jim Drake made the cutback determination after analyzing Gov. Charlie Crist’s proposed budget released last month and getting information from a legislative consultant about money expected to be spent on education following the upcoming legislative session.

The possible cuts could mean no raises next year for school employees and higher health insurance premiums.

Had the district not received federal stimulus money, McGonegal said an additional $14 million in cuts would be needed, on top of the $6 million to $15 million.

Beginning March 1, district officials will host multiple roundtable meetings to brainstorm about the issue.

“We’ll seek feedback from our stakeholders,” he said.

McGonegal said the exact amount that will have to be cut won’t be known until after the legislature convenes in March.

The district this school year is working with a $706 million budget.

McGonegal has said the district needs to slash about $25 million during the next three years.

In late January Crist highlighted his 2010-11 proposed budget for Pre K-12 education, recommending a record level funding of $22.7 billion to continue learning gains achieved by Florida’s students in recent years.

This includes state, federal and local funding, and is more than $535.5 million over the current fiscal year.