School board approves $768 million tentative budget. One member asked for lower tax rate

Meet the School Board of Manatee County

Meet the members of the Manatee School Board and the schools they represent.
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Meet the members of the Manatee School Board and the schools they represent.

With a 4-1 vote on Tuesday evening, the Manatee County School Board approved a tentative budget of more than $768.5 million, and a tentative millage rate of 7.135.

Board member Scott Hopes cast the dissenting vote, proposing a new calculation with lower tax rates.

“My vote has nothing to do with the quality of the budget and the work your staff has done, because it’s incredible,” Hopes said.

He went on to highlight the district’s financial stability, and to request a future discussion on the board-approved tax rates. He asked fellow board members to envision a reduction in the voter-approved increase on property taxes, lowering it from 1 mill to 0.8 mills.

Hopes also asked the board to consider a reduction in the school district’s “capital improvement” levy, from 1.5 mills to 1.3 mills. When it comes to property taxes, one mill is equal to one dollar per every $1,000 on a home’s value.

“If we maintained our budget and we maintained the reserves or fund balances we’re projecting, how can we adjust the tax burden on property owners?” he said.

The board will meet three more times to discuss the 2019-2020 budget, with the final approval scheduled for Sept. 10.

The largest portion — more than $487.3 million — is assigned to Manatee’s operating budget, or “general fund,” which includes salaries, benefits, classroom supplies and utility bills. The operating budget is broken down into eight main categories:

  • Salaries and benefits — 66.6 percent.
  • Charter schools — 12.3 percent.
  • Purchased services — 8.3 percent.
  • Supplies — 4.7 percent.
  • Fund balance — 4.7 percent.

  • Energy — 2.7 percent.
  • Capital outlay — .5 percent
  • Other — .3 percent

Manatee’s general fund grew by 3.16 percent over the previous year, according to its budget.

“The increased funding will allow the district to continue on its path to financial resiliency, educate 49,076 students, fill vacancies, and further improve upon the educational experience for all students,” it states.

The next largest portion — more than $177.8 million — was Manatee’s “capital fund,” which is primarily used for construction, renovations and maintenance. Manatee’s capital fund contains money from both sales taxes and local property taxes, and it grew by 7.56 percent since last year, according to the budget.

Increased capital money will allow the district to address projects outlined in the “State of Schools Facility Report,” which highlighted the need for $656 million in facility improvements over the next decade.

“Improvements include adding additions to existing schools, performing improvements and maintenance at all district facilities, and enhancing safety and security,” the budget states.

The special revenue fund — totaling more than $62.8 million — includes Manatee’s food services and its federal grants. Through state and federal reimbursements, along with payments from students and adults, the district is able to serve about 15,800 breakfasts and 29,100 lunches each day, according to the budget.

Federal grants are used for a host of programs, including those for migrant students, low-income families, English-language learners and homeless youth.

And the debt service category — totaling more than $40.5 million — is used to pay the district’s longterm debts. This year’s payment will total $29,755,558 for “all obligations,” according to the budget.

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