BRADENTON -- The Manatee County School District is proposing to hire more paraprofessionals to cover teacher absences at middle and high schools next year and to help students who don't speak English.
The staffing plan is dependent on the 2016-17 school budget, which hasn't been finalized, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Cynthia Saunders told the Manatee County School Board during a workshop Tuesday.
"We're trying to make sure we're keeping to a similar budget to what we had last year because that's what the state is coming in for as well," Saunders said.
To help the schools cover teacher absences, Saunders is proposing adding a classroom substitute to the middle and high schools.
If teachers come in late, need to leave early, have to attend a midday training session or if the school can't find enough substitutes, the classroom substitute would be a full-time staff member who could step in and help out.
"It's going to save us money on paying for substitutes if you've got a person on hand to cover the classes," Saunders said.
The district has seen an increased need for paraprofessionals to help students who don't speak English as well, so Saunders is proposing adding those where the need is highest.
Funding for school resource officers in elementary schools hasn't been determined, Saunders said. The officers are not included in the allocations for each school now, Saunders said, as discussions with local law enforcement continues.
"That position is not all up to us," Saunders said.
In most cases, the district and law enforcement agencies split the cost.
Currently all the middle and high schools have a dedicated officer.
Some elementary schools have a full-time officer, but not all are covered.
On the operations side, Rebecca Roberts, chief financial officer, reported Deputy Superintendent of Operations Don Hall would like funding for almost six more positions, including in the transportation and maintenance departments.
"Some of the positions that we're asking for this year have been eliminated in past years' budgets when we did not have the funds to maintain them and they were positions that were less critical," Roberts said.
"We're trying to now rebuild those positions that were vacated in prior budget cuts."
Board Chairman Bob Gause said unless taxpayers are willing to help the district by voting to approve a millage increase, the district will be hard-pressed to change.
"At the end of the day we'll never compete with Sarasota County unless we have the additional revenue," Gause said.
Board Vice Chairman Charlie Kennedy agreed.
"It's kind of empty or hollow to talk about the things we want to do if we're not willing to ask the public for the things that are necessary to make them happen," he said.
Board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter said the district needs a long-term financial plan.
"I think there's really a need for a five-year plan," Carpenter said.
Carpenter said she expects more detailed financial discussions at workshops in April and May.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.