EAST COUNTY — In a nod of approval toward a new administration experiencing its first budget process, the Manatee County School Board unanimously adopted a $568.3 million budget Sept. 17.
Superintendent Rick Mills said the budget process was challenging because the district had to create a line-item budget from scratch.
District officials have called it the first valid, balanced budget in years.
Last year’s budget, which was incomplete and inaccurate, contributing to a multimillion-dollar budget deficit, was unreliable.
“The budget approved by the school board is a realistic and executable budget that will help the Manatee County School District move forward successfully,” Mills said. “It is now time to turn our attention to what matters most, and that is supporting our schools and teachers in raising the achievement levels of more than 46,000 students.”
Highlights of the 2013-14 budget include:
• Money allocated to fund 85 new teacher positions required by roughly 950 extra students who enrolled in the school district this year. Hiring the additional teachers will cost the district $4.3 million, of which $2.1 million will come from the state, $1.2 will be provided through Title 1 funding and $1 million will be built into the budget.
• This came five months after the district eliminated 182 teaching positions and 96 district staff positions, because it predicted a loss of 1,000 students. Nearly all of those teachers found new jobs inside or outside the district.
• Through a savings plan, the district budgeted $10.3 million to build up reserves to the state-mandated 3%. It would be the first time in four years the district has meet the state figure.
• A tax rate decrease, from 7.589 to 7.572 mills. Rising home values mean property owners will still pay more than in the past.
• A repayment of 33% internal account money the district borrowed from individual schools at the end of last school year to boost the general fund. The district vows to repay all the money in three years.
• Pay raises for teachers and members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].
Lakewood Ranch CDDS Wrap-Up
Lakewood Ranch Community Development Districts met Sept. 19, at Town Hall, for their monthly meetings. They voted on and discussed a number of topics, which are summarized below.
• The districts revised their holiday decoration policy so that Town Hall staff can hang decorations individual neighborhoods purchase. This ensures decorations fall into standards and are installed properly.
• The districts approved a revised notice of public financing disclosure that keeps up to date with new labor laws and accounts for personnel changes to town hall.
• Town hall will be closed Oct. 14 for Columbus Day.
• Soil-moisture rebate certificates are still available at Town Hall.
• Re-paving of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard started Sept. 25 and will end Sept. 27. The re-paving includes the southbound outside lanes south of River Club Boulevard to Main Street.
• Districts renewed their lake-maintenance contract with Aquatic Systems for fiscal year 2014. Operations Director Ryan Heise reported the rate of the contract might go down next year.
• Staff will install six light poles at the Summerfield Park basketball courts in early October. Estimated costs are $17,000.
• The board reorganized itself after Robert Swiatek, the president of the Summerfield/Riverwalk Village Association, replaced the retiring Jean Stewart as CDD 1’s newest board member. June Stroup remains the chairwoman; Swiatek becomes the treasurer; and Alan Roth will be the board’s IDA representative.
• Staff recommended the district remove a little-used shuffleboard court in Summerfield. Heise said staff would like to remove the court and extend a nearby garden. The item will appear on next month’s agenda.
• The board, along with CDD 5, approved the route of the annual Harvest Hustle 5K. The route encompasses both of those districts’ property. The race will be held at 8 a.m. Nov. 23.
• Staff has removed dead street palm trees. CDD 2 and 5 supervisors revised the language of their palm tree-removal policy last month. The districts will not replace the trees.
The district is winding down its relationship with Garden Leaders, its landscape contractor. Down to Earth will replace Garden Leaders Oct. 1.
Peter Bokach, board chair, said he has recently seen more litter on district grounds. Heise said staff usually picks up three trash bags left unattended per day on weekends.
• Chairman Thomas Bishop asked Eva Rey, Town Hall executive director, if the district’s potential contract with Down to Earth to lease land at Town Hall’s new maintenance facility presents a new liability. He worried Down to Earth might damage the road transferring its equipment there. Rey said all commercial projects provide money for repairs.
• Staff is repainting the Balmoral Gate guardhouse to be consistent with the rest of Lakewood Ranch Country Club. The color will be brown-based with a tan trim. The painting process, which also includes pressure washing and sealing, will begin within two weeks.
• Board member James Hill said a joint meeting with districts 2 and 5 Sept. 17 was “very productive.”
• Town Hall will be a polling place for elections this year.
• Rey said that two signs, at both entrances to Town Hall, have been installed warning that illegal parkers will be towed. The move comes after East Manatee Fire Department officials told Rey that, during Music on Main, people are parking on Town Hall’s property in places that prevent emergency access to the building.
• Town Hall’s new maintenance facility is two months out from completion, Heise said. Crews will begin paving the parking lot in the next few weeks. Staff is working on leasing a half-acre of the property to Down to Earth as a new revenue source. To do that, staff must amend the final site-plan hearing to allow a permanent trailer on site.
• Rey earned an “outstanding” review after completing the second year of her three-year contract. “I am looking forward to a great coming year,” Rey said.