MANATEE COUNTY — Superintendent Tim McGonegal said he is optimistic Manatee County residents will approve a .25 mill property tax increase in November to keep electives and other programs available to Manatee County students.
The increase, which is expected to generate about $6.7 million for the district, is part of the superintendent’s proposal to offset $8.87 million in cuts the district is facing for the 2010-2011 school year because of declining state sales tax revenues and decreasing property tax values.
“I just don’t feel like we can have any more cuts than what we’ve taken,” said McGonegal, noting the district has trimmed $44 million from its budget in the last two years. “We would be eliminating fine arts and electives such as career and technical programs that would be engineering-based. We would have to eliminate JROTC. We can’t do that. Our feedback from the public has confirmed that those programs are important for students.”
The Florida Legislature in 2009 authorized school districts to levy an additional .25 mill of property tax for critical needs for up to two years. While 43 districts implemented the change last year, Manatee did not.
This year, McGonegal said, the district needs the funding to move forward, especially in light of the $4.7 million it is being required to spend to comply with the class-size amendment.
The Manatee County School Board is expected to approve the millage increase at its July 26 meeting for the 2010-2011 school year. Then, the item would go before voters in November to be effective for the 2011-2012 school year, as well.
“I was here in 2002 when we did the (half-penny) sales tax vote,” McGonegal said. “I feel like people will help support their schools. The alternative would be disastrous for us.”
If approved, the change would equate to a $75 annual increase in assessments for a $300,000 home.
East County parents had mixed opinions about the tax increase but said supporting education was important.
Ann Gowgiel, PTO president for Willis Elementary School, believes the district should do whatever it can to make sure students receive the best education possible, but she would look carefully to see whether a tax increase is really warranted.
“I would honestly look at the money they have and look at where it’s being spent,” she said.
Lakewood Ranch resident Maria Smith said keeping electives such as physical education is worth paying a little extra each year in taxes.
Next school year, the district is expecting to see enrollment increase by about 400 students, which will bring in about $1.61 million to the district budget. Revenue from local taxes is expected to bring in $1.28 million, and an increase in class-size amendment funding is projected to bring in another $1.5 million. However, per-student funding provided by the state will decrease by $310,000. About $500,000 in stimulus dollars also will disappear. Those numbers, combined with a $230,00 reduction in other state revenues leave the district with $3.35 million more in revenue.
However, expenses have increased as well, resulting in a net reduction of $8.87 million to the operating budget. Those expenses include $1.53 million for student enrollment growth, $2.1 million for state retirement premium increases, $2.40 million for automatic “step” pay increases for employees, $1.3 million in raised insurance costs and $4.7 million to comply with class-size amendment changes.
Under McGonegal’s budget proposal, the district would make up the $8.87 million difference between revenues and expenses by reducing district office positions and levels of services ($750,000) and using long-term substitutes rather than hiring replacements for teachers during the school year ($460,000), among other options.
The .25 mill assessment would make up $6.7 million of the difference, preventing further cuts.
For more information about the proposed budget cut recommendations, visit the school district’s website, www.manateeschools.net.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY THE NUMBERS
The following is the superintendent’s recommendations for meeting the $8.87 million shortfall in the 2010-2011 budget.
$750,000 — Reduction in district office positions and levels of service
$85,000 — Reduction in market bus inspection and bus wash services
$50,000 — Reduction in use of Builder’s Risk Insurance for construction projects
$460,000 — No new hires. District will use long-term subs if a teacher quits.
$440,000 — Reduction in staffing: District will hire some high school teachers for first semester only.
$261,000 — Reduction in substitute teacher and aide pay by $7 per day.
$100,000 — Gained from advertising inside school buses
$6.724 million — Generated from .25 mill critical needs property tax
TOTAL: $8.87 million operating budget cut recommendations for 2010-2011