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School Board approves tax hike, tentative budget


BRADENTON - The Manatee County School Board on Wednesday night approved 5-0 its tentative 2009/10 budget and a tax increase.

Final approval of the $697 million budget will be at a meeting to be held Sept. 10.

In a 90-minute presentation by Assistant Superintendent Jim Drake, he described a budget process going on amid falling revenues and outlays by the state Legislature. He promised that as soon as the 2009/10 budget is approved, work will being on the $11 million to $12 million in additional cuts needed for the 2010/11 and 2011/12 budgets, and refused to speculate after the meeting as to where those cuts might be.

The millage rate for 2009/10 is the maximum allowed, according to the budget message on the school district's Web site. The rate of 7.541 for the upcoming fiscal year from 7.372 in 2008/09 is an increase of 2.29 percent, Drake said. It means that the owner of a house valued at $250,000 with a $25,000 homestead exemption would be paying $1,696.73, an increase of $38.03 over last year's $1,658.70. A house with a homestead exemption that receives the maximum .1 percent increase in valuation will pay $39.72 more in school taxes, Drake said.

He admitted that next year he will scale it in his budget report to a house with a lower value since property values have fallen and houses worth $250,000 are less common.

Property values in the county have fallen and growth has dropped off, too, Drake said, with the county's appraised value near $30 billion, a drop from $33.1 billion that has affected budgets at all levels.

For comparison, Drake said the millage rate in 1995 was 9.589, and in 2001 it was 8.682.

Local school districts are having to make up the state's funding cuts, Drake said, or make cuts of their own, and he pointed to the class size amendment as a particular sticking point since the law says the state, and not local school districts, has to pay for it, but without a funding source the districts have been stuck with the bill. With lottery funds shrinking and the prospect of the loss of federal stimulus money in a couple of years, districts like Manatee's are looking at big drops in revenue that need to be planned for right away.

Board members commended Drake for his presentation, and Superintendent Tim McGonegal expressed his satisfaction with the presentation, too.

McGonegal said that work is moving forward on making the Duette school a contract site, and that Donna King is trying to find support in the community. He said he supports the school but doesn't want to see it being a burden on the other schools in the Manatee County system.

Another issue McGonegal brought up was the health insurance contract, which he said is not delivering the kind of costs savings he has expected.

"We were supposed to save $8 million, and we have not," he said.

Board member Robert Gause warned that such a shortfall could wipe out the district's financial reserves, and McGonegal said he wants the board to take up the issue because progress is not being made and he doesn't want to keep pumping money into that system.

"We wanted it to be in the black by December 2009," McGonegal said.

At the end, the board held its votes:

  • The board voted 5-0 to approve the Supplemental Operating Discretionary Millage for 2009/10 of .748.
  • The board voted 5-0 to approve the resolution adopting the Fiscal Year 2009/10 Total Millage of 7.541.
  • The board voted 5-0 to approve the 2009/10 Fiscal Year Tentative Annual Budget in the amount of $697,060,932.


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