As COVID-19 threatens its budget, Manatee School District hires new finance director

The School District of Manatee County has chosen a new finance chief to oversee a budget worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Tim Bargeron begins as the associate superintendent for finance on May 26, starting with an annual salary of $148,744, according to district spokesman Mike Barber. The school board approved Bargeron’s hiring on Tuesday evening, after a five-person committee made the unanimous decision to recommend him earlier this month.

Bargeron, who recently oversaw the business and operations at a school district in Galveston, Texas, is arriving at a crucial time for the school district. The former head of finance, Heather Jenkins, resigned earlier this year, and the COVID-19 pandemic is sure to impact Manatee’s budget.

That budget totaled more than $850 million in the current school year. At the meeting on Tuesday evening, board member Dave Miner said the pandemic would hurt local sales and property values, two vital sources of tax revenue for the school district.

The school district already saw a dip in its investment accounts, along with the money from after-school care, facility rentals and other sources of revenue, Superintendent Cynthia Saunders followed.

Bracing for greater declines, she said the district was adjusting its budget for the next school year, though the full impact of COVID-19 had yet to reveal itself.

“The state, as well as the nation, is really not sure what August is going to look like in terms of the economy, but also in terms of the virus,” she said. “We really need to be prepared for many different outcomes.”

With more than 30 years of experience in education finance, Bargeron may be the person to help Manatee weather an impending storm. He attended the University of Florida’s accounting program, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1985 and a master’s degree in 1993, according to his resume.

Bargeron’s resume said he worked in half a dozen school districts.

  • Union County School District: chief accountant from August 1985 to May 1986.
  • Marion County School District: accountant and senior accountant from August 1986 to May 1993.
  • Hernando County School District: executive director for the Office of Management and Budget from May 1993 to August 1995.
  • Martin County School District: director of finance from August 1995 to May 2001.
  • St. Lucie County School District: chief finance officer, deputy superintendent and the assistant superintendent of business services from January 2002 to June 2018.
  • Galveston Independent School District: assistant superintendent for business and operations from July 2018 to May 2020.

Bargeron also worked with a handful of school districts as a senior associate with KPMG, where he was employed for less than a year.

He oversaw a budget of about $200 million as a district employee in Hernando and Martin counties, along with a budget of approximately $450 million as a district administrator in St. Lucie County, according to the resume.

Most recently, Bargeron coordinated audits, handled district investments and planned future building needs, “including growth projections, land acquisition, new facility construction” and the related financing for a district in Texas.

Long-term planning is vital in Manatee County, where enrollment is growing and facilities are aging. Local schools and administrative buildings have $656 million in needs over the next decade, according to a report by Jacobs Engineering Group.

Planning is one of the many responsibilities listed under Bargeron’s job description in Manatee. In hopes of competing with surrounding districts, the school board reclassified the position of chief financial officer to associate superintendent for finance last month, a new title with more responsibilities and pay.

He will report to the superintendent and supervise the finance director, budget director, purchasing director, payroll administrator and operations analyst.

“His experience and expertise should be extremely valuable as we navigate through the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” Saunders said in a prepared statement.

Giuseppe Sabella, education reporter for the Bradenton Herald, holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He spent time at the Independent Florida Alligator, the Gainesville Sun and the Florida Times-Union. His coverage of education in Manatee County earned him a first place prize in the Florida Society of News Editors’ 2019 Journalism Contest. Giuseppe also spent one year in Charleston, W.Va., earning a first-place award for investigative reporting.

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