Much credit has been given to Superintendent Rick Mills and school board members for "turning around" the finances of the Manatee school district. It isn't hard to improve finances when you get a big raise, cut important expenditures, seize money from school accounts, and sell off property.
The school district has received an increase of $40,349,011 in total funds from the state Legislature over the last two fiscal years. Once the $13 million fund balance issue was taken care of, there was more than $27,349,011 in increased revenue.
Even with this increased revenue, Mr. Mills and his staff thought it necessary to eliminate teaching tools, reduce the number of supplements for extra duty activities that teachers perform, and eliminate quality inclusion programs.
Another source of new revenue for the district was the seizure of school-based internal accounts. This money was earned by students and their families through school picture sales, schoolwide fund-raisers, and sports and club activities. Next they seized control of funds elementary schools earned by providing after-school care for students. Previously, all of this money stayed at the schools where it was earned to pay for field trips, tutoring, technology, and other things schools need but can't afford due to tight budgets.
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Last of all there was new revenue from the sale of school district property. The board previously refused to sell this same property for a much higher price.
With all this additional revenue the district should be in even better financial condition. Yes, this district has been turned around, but it is now running backwards, putting district politics and personal agendas first and students and staff last.
We need student- and school-focused leadership. That is why I am voting for Dr. Mary Cantrell for the school board.
Minnie J. King