School Board Passes Budget Continues to Search for Auditor

The district's budget will include 2 percent in its reserves, below the 3 percent required by the state.

The Manatee School Board cut $6 million from its budget in order to deal with a budget crisis that threatened to leave the school district with a budget deficit.

The cuts hit some of the county's neediest the hardest. The Herald Tribune reported:

the casualties included a program that helps the county's poorest teenagers and the positions of specialists who work with special education students.

The budget also includes leaving some vacant positions unfilled and bonuses for employees who choose to retire. Robert Gagnon, the interim district superintendent, suggested the cuts to get the district through the next year without cutting teacher salaries or promised bonuses.

The school board approved the $555 million budget with the understanding that there will be some flexibility within the budget throughout the year, especially after the auditors examine the budget.

The Bradenton Herald reported that the state told Scott Martin, assistant superintendent for District Support Services, that they don't have to come up to the 3 percent in reserves this year and that the district will be given ample time to correct its budget woes.

"This is not a single-year phenomenon," Martin said. "We do not have to return to a 3 percent fund balance by the end of one fiscal year."

The school district's audit firm listed several law firms to lead an investigation into the district's finances and how it overspent by $8 million. Former Superintendent Tim McGonegal blamed accounting errors in which the district didn't include salaries for dozens of teachers or money spent on new textbooks.

The Herald-Tribune reported:

Committee members said using an out-of-town firm is the only way they can restore public trust.

The list is comprised of six firms from Tampa and St. Petersburg. The committee may consider two other firms suggested by University of South Florida Trustee Byron Shinn.

An audit could cost up to $50,000. The cost of hiring a law firm would depend on how much oversight the School Board wants to give the firm.


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