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School Board Talks Budget/Raises at Workshop


BRADENTON - At Tuesday's workshop, the Manatee School Board went through budget overviews for the district's Instructional Services and Operations departments, as well as the board's own budget. Major discussion points were a stated prioritization of funding for Instruction over Operations, the gutting of new projects that had been planned, and possible raises for board members.

All of the departments for Instructional Services received a two percent budget cut. Deputy Superintendent for I.S., Dr. Diana Greene, said that her department's budget was still a work in progress because board input was still needed. A $1.4 million increase for textbooks, as well as daycare services for new teenage mothers, both required by the state, were included in the budget.

Going over the budget for Operations, Deputy Superintendent Don Hall advised that funding had been "gutted," with no new positions added and some major planned projects for the upcoming school year crossed out.  

Due to $30 million in budget cuts, he said, those projects - staffing enhancements, an upgrade of the transportation fleet's security camera system, and the creation of a safety and security department - were removed from the Operations budget. 

"I'm presenting to you the reality of what we had to do to balance the budget. We intentionally said, no new positions, no new programs," he added.

Board member Barbara Harvey expressed her displeasure with the removal of camera upgrades during the Deputy Superintendent's presentation. Hall responded by echoing Greene's comment that the board has the final say on funding for projects in the budget. 

Board member Dave Miner said he would like to see more budget cuts made in order to ensure that the district meets the 3 percent fund balance required by the state. "I think we have to have cushion for the unknowns," he said, expressing concern that that goal would not be met if more financial mishaps were discovered in the near-future.

Hall went on to explain that he agreed it was important that Operations receive such cuts over Instructional Services, saying that the administration wanted to prioritize funding of the latter. "We believe Instruction should be the focus of the district," Hall said.

During the board's presentation of its own budget, listed salary increases for board members were discussed. Board member Bob Gause said he believed that such increases would mean that board members could make more than a starting teacher, which is prohibited by the state.

Miner said that while he would personally not take a pay increase, he would also not denigrate any board members who may choose to do so. "I've no doubt that each member of this board earns what they make," he said, adding, "I won't consider (a pay increase) until we've had a year where we've met our 3 percent fund balance ... but anybody else, however they want to do it, I respect that." 

None of the budgets were final, and the board will continue to review them before they are finalized.


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