Our network

Manatee parents fight to save neighborhood park | News

Title (Max 100 Characters)

Manatee parents fight to save neighborhood park

Bradenton, Florida -- Tucked in between offices and stores on Manatee Avenue is McKelvey Park. It's in jeopardy of being bought out and built up if the Manatee County School District decides to sell it for $1.8 million.

Parent Becky Lyerla says, "We have enough businesses -- two banks, a Walgreens, a shopping center. That's enough. Kids need something. Give them something."

The park sits next to Miller Elementary School.

Parent Lisa Quinehan says, "It's a piece of property that's untouched. Kids play there and it's named after someone who was a teacher here forever. Why take that away?"

Why? Because the school district has been in financial trouble. It's facing up to $12 million in state fines.

A state audit shows the district misappropriated $38 million, overspent $13 million, and has gone two years without a balanced budget. It's also gone five years without the three percent in reserves required by the state.

School district officials say selling the park is one option that could help avoid the fines, but not all school board members agree.

"I don't think destroying this park is the answer for anything," says David "Watchdog" Miner, a Manatee County school board member.

Miner says the board has other options.

"They're intoxicated in a sense by what is easy money instead of having to work for the sale, raise the money they want, the check."

In a newspaper editorial, Superintendent Rick Mills says his goal is "to return the school district to a state of financial stability so we can reinvest in our classrooms and employees."

Click here to read a letter Superintendent Rick Mills sent school and district staff today about the district's financial status and recovery.

Click here to view information on audit and district's response.

As part of the district's recovery plan, the district has cut back expenses. District officials say they have cut 69 administrative positions, sold off vehicles and property, and saved on energy costs.

The superintendent has also implemented a spending freeze until the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

The district expects to finish the fiscal year with $8.2 million in the bank just short of the three percent reserve required by the state.

Meanwhile, parents and kids have been attending school board meetings and posting yellow homemade signs along the neighborhood streets saying, "Save Our Park."

The group has started a Facebook page with more than 400 "likes" and a petition on Change.org with nearly as many signatures.

"Once it's gone, it's gone," says Lisa.


Manatee County Businesses