Manatee County School District makes $9 million mistake

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BRADENTON, Fla. - It's being called a nine million dollar mistake. Manatee County School Board members learned just days ago of a huge budget short fall from last school year, and now, the question is, who will pay the price for this oversight?

The district hired 58 teachers last school year in order to try to meet class size requirements, but the money for their salaries was never in the budget. Now, School Board Chairman Harry Kinnan, says board members are left scrambling to find ways to make up for the deficit.

Kinnan says there's only one way to describe it. “It's an administrative mistake of the highest order.” He says board members just recently learned of the mistake, and now, they want answers. “I think the board is really going to look and see how in the world this could happen and who is responsible. Obviously, senior management was responsible and there was a lack of oversight as to why we would hire teachers, which is an admirable thing to do, but then not have them in the budget last year, which means we have the shortfall.”

Due to an increase in enrollment, the district hired 58 additional teachers during the 2011-2012 school year in order to meet class size requirements, totaling over three million dollars in salaries. But that money wasn't in the budget, and in order to make up for it, the district used money from it's surplus fund. “We're talking almost $9 million because we're required not only to make the shortfall up, but to have a surplus, which we call a fund balance, of approximately $6 million,” says Kinnan.

Kinnan says Superintendent Tim McGonegal, who recently announced his plans to retire, gave some recommendations on how to make up for the mistake. And while board members were hopeful to give employees a small raise or bonus this year, Kinnan says there's a possibility that now, that may not happen.

“Our employees did not create this problem, and the last thing I want is for them to have to suffer in any way because of this. This was not their problem or making, and so my hope is we're able to find ways to make this gap up without effecting them in any way.”

The board meets Monday evening, and Kinnan says the budget shortfall will be a topic of discussion. He says he would support possibly having an outside audit done to see what happened and make sure it never happens again.