MANATEE COUNTY — School district officials may have found a way to keep taxpayers from seeing any increases in school-related taxes next school year, despite a “critical needs” .25 mill increase the Manatee County School Board is expected to approve July 26.
Up until last week, Superintendent Tim McGonegal had proposed the .25 mill increase only. However, now he will suggest the board raise millage for operating expenses by .25 mills while also reducing the millage for capital projects by .25 mills.
The reduction in property taxes for capital projects would then be offset by selling surplus land the district owns, including a parcel adjacent to its administrative building in Bradenton.
“It’s at least going to be a wash for this year,” McGonegal said.
McGonegal said the district needs the increase for its general revenue fund but also is trying to accomodate the needs of taxpayers.
The changes would keep the district from cutting school electives such as JROTC and other programs.
“We really want to avoid decreasing the service to students,” McGonegal said.
For the 2010/2011 school year, the district must shave an additional $8.7 million. McGonegal’s proposal includes reductions in district office positions (savings of $750,000), advertising on school buses ($100,000 generated) and other options. The millage increase had been expected to generate about $6.7 million of the $8.7 shortfall.
Because the district already has shaved so much money from its budget, McGonegal said the millage increase is the only option left to keep from eliminating elective classes and other programs.
During the 2008/2009 year, the school district reduced its budget by about $30 million. Cuts included the elimination of 68 district office positions, including an assistant superintendent position, as well as across the board salary reductions. District employees took 1% pay cuts, while high level district office employees took 2% pay cuts. Board members, the superintendent and the school board attorney took 5% cuts.
While the district could implement further salary cuts, McGonegal said doing so would cause more harm than good.
“The pay cuts we did two years ago were devastating for morale,” he said.
For the 2009/2010 school year, district officials trimmed another $14 million, which would have been more if not for the federal stimulus package, which cut $25 million over three years instead of $20 million for just last school year.
Cuts included the elimination of another 50 district office positions, the reduction of field trip allocations for elementary and middle schools, eliminating assistant principal positions at schools with less than 575 children and a 10% reduction of the cost of extra-curricular supplements such as sports, dance and music, among other changes. The district even implemented an energy management program, which called for changes such as increasing the temperature of schools by one degree.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MANATEE’S PREVIOUS BUDGET REDUCTIONS
• Elimination of 68 district office positions.
• Districtwide salary reductions — 1% for employees; 2% for high-level district office employees; 5% for school board members, the superintendent and school board attorney.
• District share of savings from the Energy Challenge and other energy savings — $350,000
• Establish new pay scale and guidelines for employees returning to work from DROP — $400,000
• Savings from diesel fuel prices being reduced from prior year — $500,000
• Eliminate assistant principal positions at some schools — $900,000
• Eliminate allocation of 36 reading coaches — $1.135 million
• Eliminate one specials teacher at each elementary school and replace with teacher assistant — $1.25 million
• Savings from not having to budget for the Kaplan contract for the core curriculum — $1.5 million
• Eliminate 50 district office positions — $4 million