Members of the School Board of Manatee County and the Citizens' Financial Advisory Committee are still in a tug-of-war over how much financial oversight should be afforded to the new committee.
Board members voted June 26 to strike down the committee's request for broader oversight of district finances.
After previously voting to roll back the committee's oversight, board member John Colon made a motion to accept the request, and Chairman Scott Hopes seconded the proposal. The motion failed with a 2-3 vote.
"Limiting what we promised the voters so soon after we got the referendum money, it's bad optics," Colon said before the vote. "It looks terrible."
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Further discussion could take place at the board's workshop on July 24.
On Jan. 23, board members voted to give the committee oversight of referendum funds and "other duties assigned by a majority vote of the school board."
The board voted unanimously on Feb. 13 to give the group broader oversight, including "other areas of financial concern brought forward by a committee member, a member of the public, the superintendent or school board members."
The promise was made more than a month before voters approved a one-mill increase on property taxes. An estimated $37 million is expected to benefit staff salaries, tutoring programs, instructional time and specific areas of study.
The board voted to roll back its previous decision with a 3-2 vote on June 12. Colon and Charlie Kennedy supported a motion by Dave Miner, limiting oversight to the receipt and disbursement of the millage funds approved by voters.
On Tuesday, Miner called the committee's request for broader oversight a "resolution of contempt." He was joined by other board and committee members who feel that millage funds should be the group's sole focus.
"That's what they were charged to do, not to thumb their nose at this board and the people who have elected us to make those decisions," Miner said.
Both Kennedy and Vice Chair Gina Messenger said they were open to discussing the issue at a later date. With input from committee Chair Robert Christopher and Susan Agruso, chair of the district's independent Audit Committee, the school board may find a middle ground.
In its request, the committee vowed not to repeat the efforts of other oversight bodies. Kennedy was still concerned that broader oversight could lead to overlap with the Audit Committee.
"Last week, the three of us were not saying, 'Let's remove all oversight,'" he said. "We were just saying, 'Lets reign this back in and fine-tune the details.'"
The committee voted 8-6 on June 19 to request broader oversight. Promising not to duplicate existing efforts or to burden district staff with excessive requests, the group asked board members to reinstate the authority granted in February.
Committee member Garin Hoover made the successful motion. He spoke at Tuesday's meeting after Miner accused him of working "against the community."
"After you get your vote, you get your $33-plus million, and now you want to strip the committee of what you already approved," he said. "Don't you see how the public is going to view that?"