The $608 million tentative budget to be presented to the Manatee County School Board for approval Tuesday accomplishes a key Manatee County School District goal, according to Superintendent Diana Greene.
“When you look at where we were coming from, that was our goal, to stabilize our budget,” she said. “We’re accomplishing that goal.”
The 2016-17 tentative budget, which totals $608,263,176, doesn’t include any new programs or additions to the school district. The proposed budget starts with $16 million in general reserve and will end with about $12 million, which is a decrease, but it still above the state-mandated 3 percent of estimated new revenues districts are required to maintain.
“It is a balanced budget, but we are using some of our fund balance to balance it,” said Rebecca Roberts, district chief financial officer.
Departments were asked to create requests using a zero-based budgeting method, where department directors start with zero and build a budget based on what is needed in the coming year, not based on what was spent in the previous year. That’s a shift in how previous budgets were done in Manatee County, but aligns with best practices, said Heather Jenkins, district budget director.
“We’ve been finding methods that fit our district,” she said.
A rise in property values and more properties available to be taxed will allow the district to collect approximately $4 million more in local property taxes. Although the district will collect more money locally, the state-set millage rate is going down, meaning local taxpayers may see a decrease in school taxes if their home values remains unchanged.
Coming budget workshops will include more information on what the district budget means for taxpayers, Jenkins said.
A final budget will go before the school board in September. Officials will work off the tentative budget don’t expect surprises arriving at the final budget.
The final budget number will be higher than the $608 million figure, because the final budget includes more funds. The tentative budget includes the general fund and special reserves, like the food service fund and a tentative grant amount. The final budget also includes internal service funds, like the health insurance fund and the worker’s compensation fund, which is why the final budget number is higher.
Some of those internal service fund numbers are not ready to be included in the tentative budget approval.
At a previous workshop, the board was able to start identifying some areas they’d like to beef up in the budget, including increasing that state-mandated reserves, but Roberts said the district had to balance the budget. The $12 million in the reserve represents about four percent, above the state requirement