BRADENTON – A tentative district budget of $558,657,560 for the 2014-15 school year was approved at the Manatee School Board’s public hearing on Thursday, along with approval of the 2014-15 Supplemental Operating Discretionary Millage of 0.7480, and the Resolution Adopting the 2014-15 Total Millage of 7.3760.
Calling the budget “a remarkable achievement,” Superintendent Rick Mills advised that $2 million more had recently been discovered for next year’s fund balance. “We have turned around and reestablished fiscal stability in our district,” he concluded.
The additional $2 million, as advised by Deputy Superintendent of Operations Don Hall, came up due to a number of financial controls put in place by the district for the current school year.
Half of that extra $2 million would be directed to a School Resource Officer program for elementary schools. The district’s Instructional Services department would receive the bulk of the budget (about $250,000,000), as advised by administration staff in previous meetings, who have stated they wanted to make education the district’s main funding priority per the board's request. The rest would go to increase reserves.
Along with bus radios, Hall told the board that security cameras would be upgraded, with the goal being to eventually move to an Internet Protocol system, which would be centrally reported to the district’s Director of Safety and Security, a new position that the administration will soon be interviewing for.
On the subject of funding for the district’s Board Office, board members discussed options for slashing its proposed $1,015,845 budget for next year which would see a large increase in benefit costs, as well as a correspondingly large increase in its functions.
By far the largest proposed increase in the Board Office budget is for its Professional & Technical function, which is comprised of fees for its internal auditing firm Shinn & Co. ($315,000), the school board’s attorney ($150,000) and policy updates ($70,000) - an increase of almost $300,000 from the current year.
Bob Gause suggested that paid-for car travel expenses from the office budget should be scaled back, which would mean less attendance to out-of-county education related conferences with organizations such as the Florida School Board Association. While saying he believed that the FSBA meetings provided benefit, Gause advised that he would like for the board “to look at everything it can this year” to scale back.
The tentative budget was approved 4-1, with Dave Miner dissenting. Miner said during the meeting that he had several concerns about several line items in the budget. The board member, who attended the meeting via Skype and then teleconference, asked several questions about various line items before the vote. While those questions were answered by administration staff, Miner implied he still had unanswered concerns after discussion came to a close.