EAST COUNTY — Asking his constituents to maintain faith in his district’s move to act with more transparency, Rick Mills, Manatee County School District superintendent, pushed the school board to reschedule adopting the 2013-14 budget because the public did not have enough time to review it.
Following Mills’ advice, who acknowledged the district did not make the final $568 million budget available for public view fast enough, the school board voted Sept. 9, to postpone adopting the budget to Sept. 17 — a day before the state deadline to do so.
Blaming a breakdown in communication for the delay, Mills said the district should have posted the budget on its website Sept. 5, when the school board received it.
Instead, the district posted the final budget Sept. 8, the day before the school board was to vote to adopt it.
“I apologize the final budget was not posted in a timely manner,” Mills told a standing- room only audience. “I take full responsibility for that oversight. One of my top priorities as superintendent is to restore public trust in our school district through complete transparency. Every effort has been made to make this a transparent process. It’s something the community should be appreciating.”
The district says the final budget includes little change from July’s tentative budget.
Changes include the addition of 85 teachers required by increased enrollment, an adjustment discussed at a public hearing Aug. 29. About $1 million will come from the school district budget to support hiring the new teachers. The total cost will be $4.5 million, with the remainder coming from state and Title I funding.
Since Aug. 29, the budget increased by $1,046,638, and the district financial staff, led by Michael Boyer, chief financial officer, reduced reserves by $429,020.
The final budget, balanced for the first time in years, shows a 7.572 millage rate, a slight decrease from 7.589 mills last year, which will still bring the school district more revenue, due to increased property values.
The additional revenue from property taxes mostly explains the $12.7 million increase in the budget compared to last year, though the district has said not to make comparisons, because poor reporting and systems in past years made the 2012-13 budget inaccurate — and led to a massive budget deficit.
Also different from past years, the budget shows the costs of every department and breaks down the $37.8 million in reserves.
Before Sept. 9, the district hosted two public hearings on the budget — one more than the state required.
“I want to praise the superintendent for encouraging the suspension of adopting the budget,” said board member Dave Miner. “His interests are quite clear. He wants the community to have the information it needs to helps this board and its schools.”
The public will get one last chance to speak on the budget, and see the board vote on it, at 5:45 p.m. Sept. 17.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].
+ School board, teachers agree on raises
Manatee County educators and the school board signed off on a settlement reached between the teachers union and the district last month.
The three-year contract represents the first time in four years the union, the Manatee Education Association, and the district have reached an agreement.
A teacher eligible for a three-step increase would receive at least $1,750 in additional pay.
The district said teachers should expect to see the extra money in their October paychecks.
The salary increase comes from more than $8 million the state allocated for teacher raises.
Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees will also get a roughly 2.1% raise.