BRADENTON -- Manatee County school district officials will look to bridge a $1.8 million gap before bringing a proposed budget to the board in July.
The work begins in earnest since the governor signed a state budget Tuesday. Using earlier budget drafts from the state, the district was expecting to receive about $13 million in additional funds for the upcoming year, but they also estimated new costs to be higher. The revenue coming from the state is closer to $12.2 million, chief financial officer Rebecca Roberts told the board during a workshop on Tuesday.
Finance department officials needs to adjust about $1.8 million in funding before bringing a balanced budget to the board in July. Roberts cautioned against calling the figure a "deficit."
"We do not have a funding deficit. What we have is a need to make budget adjustments," she said. "And let me assure you, we will come to you with a balanced budget."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Bradenton Herald
Specifically, officials had estimated an overall 2 percent increase in operating costs that amount to $7.2 million. It's likely officials can make the adjustments and close the gap, Roberts said.
Board members complained about the lack of funding from the legislature, calling on the state to do more to keep up with increased student enrollment across the state.
"It's a noticeable disparity in how the state has allocated funds to address student population," board chair Bob Gause said. "The districts continue to have to provide, and serve."
Also on Tuesday, the board discussed a proposal from Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith that the school board add two at-large members, mirroring how the county is represented. Smith said he thinks the change would cut down on the board's dysfunction.
"No one can hijack the board of county commission, there are seven of us," Smith told the board Tuesday. "Turmoil cannot get to the majority of the board."
Smith urged the board to allow the public to decide the issue and to keep politics out of it. Board member Dave Miner was supportive of making a motion to get a referendum before voters in 2016 based on Smith's proposal. On paper, board member Mary Cantrell said she liked the idea.
Board member Charlie Kennedy instead made his own suggestion that the board continue to have single-representation districts, but add two members. Instead of having five districts, the school board would have seven districts, and people in each district would only vote for their representative, instead of voting county wide.
Kennedy brought a proposed map to the meeting, where he had outlined what he thought would be fair districts.
"This is just another idea for consideration," Kennedy said. "This is just an idea."
Board member Karen Carpenter didn't voice a preference but thanked Kennedy, Miner and Smith for their efforts.
Gause said he would support whatever the board chose to do, but brought up the question "why."
"My personal experience over the years is that larger bodies are harder to manage than smaller bodies," he said.
The board voted four-to-one, with Gause dissenting, to have board attorney Jim Dye check the legality of Smith's original suggestion and then the board will vote at a future meeting on whether to formally put it before the voters.
In other business Tuesday:
The board approved an additional $2.5 million expenditure for new textbooks. The money comes from an allocation provided to the district by the state that is to be used specifically for instructional materials.
The board also approved creating three new positions: an enterprise architect in IT, graduation enhancement technicians in Title I and a supervisor of athletics and physical education to work at the district level.
Mike Barber was promoted to the director of communications, family and community engagement and Tammy Taylor was promoted to director of finance.
Cheryl McGrew was named principal at McNeal Elementary School, Greg Sander was named principal at Sea Breeze Elementary School, Shirin Gibson as named principal at Gullett Elementary and Scott Boyes was named principal at Miller Elementary School. This leaves at least one elementary principal position open, at Palma Sola, where Boyes worked.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.