A narrow majority of the Citizens' Financial Advisory Committee wants broader oversight of finances in the School District of Manatee County.
The committee voted 8-6 to address the school board at its next meeting. Board members will be asked to reinstate the committee's previous authority, which extended beyond its main purpose: oversight of money collected through a one-mill increase in property taxes.
Garin Hoover made the motion and advocated for broader oversight, but he also said the committee should be careful not to duplicate the work of existing groups.
"This is a big district with $882 million," he said. "The Audit Committee and the current committees, they aren't going to be able to handle everything."
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Tuesday's discussion followed a decision made at last week's school board meeting. The board voted 3-2 to roll back the committee's authority, focusing it solely on the receipt and disbursement of millage funds, which are projected to reach more than $37 million.
A handful of board members and committee members felt that broad oversight was promised to the voters before they approved a tax increase on March 20. Others felt the board's decision returned the committee to its intended purpose.
The referendum specified that an oversight committee would issue an annual report and ensure proper use of the money. However, on Feb. 13, the board voted to expand the committee's authority. One of the broadest roles allowed for "a review of other areas of financial concern brought forward by a committee member, a member of the public, the superintendent or school board members."
Three committee members said they volunteered with the expectation that broad oversight would be allowed. Using one hand to hold the list of roles approved in February, and another hand to hold the condensed list last that was approved last week, committee member Charles Tokarz said he was confused.
Linda Schaich, who seconded the motion on Tuesday, responded with both papers in her hands.
"The difference is this was before they got the vote from the public, and this is after they got the vote from the public," she said.
Several committee members feared that broad oversight would lead to a burden on district staff and a duplication of existing efforts in the district. Vice Chair John Horne, who voted against Tuesday's motion, said the committee should focus on its main charge: millage revenue.
"If we stretch ourselves over the whole budget, I think we're going to get lost," he said.
Though the committee started as a group of 15 local activists, entrepreneurs and educators, only 14 voted on Tuesday. School board Chairman Scott Hopes said one member left the committee, and that a new member would be appointed.
The committee then discussed its next steps. How will the incoming money be tracked? How will the committee ensure the funds are properly spent? And how can the committee objectively measure whether that spending is effective?
Member Timothy Novak made a motion to create three subcommittees to focus on data analytics, income efficacy and community transparency. His motion passed with a unanimous vote.
Board Chair Robert Christopher said the committee would continue its conversation at the next meeting on July 17. Members may be assigned to the new subcommittees, and they will further discuss how to ensure proper use of the new millage funds.
According to the district's resolution, the money should be used to "increase student achievement through more instructional time and after-school tutoring, recruit and retain teachers and staff with competitive salaries, expand Career and Technical Education and STEM programs to prepare students for the workforce, and to support charter schools."