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East County Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018 1 year ago

School district makes its case for revenue increase

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Superintendent Diana Greene talked to the public about the need for a 1 mill increase in property taxes.
by: Amelia Hanks Community Reporter

It’s not that Olivia Mayer, a fifth-grade teacher at Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary, is gossiping about salary in the teachers’ lounge, but she’s heard rumors.

The talk has been that Sarasota County teachers do far better in terms of income.

“It’s more frustrating to the older teachers with kids,” Mayer said. “(The School District of Manatee County) hiked up the insurance on us last year, so if you’re insuring your whole family, a majority of your paycheck is going to that.”

The comparative teacher salaries of the two districts was one of the topics at the “A 1 Mill 4 Manatee Education” meeting Feb. 6 at R. Dan Nolan Middle School. The gathering was to provide the public with information about an upcoming referendum that is asking voters to approve a 1-mill hike in property taxes that would primarily raise the salary of teachers and administrators. It also would allow the school district to expand the school day by 30 minutes.

The 1-mill hike referendum would cost an owner of a $225,000 home an additional $18.75 a month in property taxes if approved. The special election will be March 20.

Superintendent Diana Greene said her district had 300 vacancies for teachers and administrators when schools opened for the 2017-2018 school year.

Greene said Sarasota County schools are actively wooing top teachers away from Manatee County schools.

“They (Sarasota schools) look for anything positive in the paper about (Manatee teachers), and they go after them and try to recruit them,” Greene said.

The superintendent said the district had been concentrating on getting the half-cent sales tax extended last fall, but that tax goes to improve facilities, not boost teacher and administrator salaries.

“I’ve been the superintendent for three years,” she said. “I believe in not only this community, but this school district, even without this referendum. However, we’re never going to get there if we keep taking steps backwards.”

The district informed those who attended the meeting that polling shows county residents are split 50-50 on whether to approve the new tax.

“We have to put it out there and let the community make that decision,” Greene said.

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