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Budget gap forces changes, cuts for Duval County Public Schools

Staff cuts, schedule changes needed to bridge $62M shortfall, district says

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – State funding isn't keeping up with the costs of running the Duval County school district, and administrators have been forced to get creative in adjusting the budget.

At a School Board workshop Tuesday, district leaders revealed their recommendations to close a $62 million budget gap. 

The district took the brunt of the cuts -- including losing 50 district-level positions -- to lessen the impact for individual schools' budgets, Chief Financial Officer Michelle Begley said. Combined with other operating reductions, overall district-level spending will be down more than 8 percent. But schools must still cut 4.2 percent from their budgets, if the recommendations are approved by the board.

Some of the recommended money-saving changes for next school year include returning middle schools from “block” schedules to traditional seven-period days ($3.7 million) and reducing staff ($10.4 million).

The district also recommends “equalizing” elementary school resource teachers so that students in large and small schools spend the same amount of time with physical education, music and arts teachers.

Currently, each elementary school has the same number of resource teachers, regardless of size, giving students in smaller schools more time with those teachers compared to students at larger schools.

Administrators said the change would save the district about $2.2 million.

“Equity is an important value,” said Chief Academic Officer Mason Davis, “and arts, music and P.E. are important educational experiences. The time students have with these resources should be fair and equitable across all schools.”

District leaders pointed out that district-level costs represent just over a quarter of overall expenses but will make up 36 percent of the budget gap under the current recommendations.

The district and school-based adjustments combine for about $44.6 million of the budget shortfall. To make up the rest, the district administration is recommending a slower pace to restoring fund balances (savings), which will trim about $9.1 million out of the budget. The district is also expecting $6.9 more in minor revenue sources and transfers into district accounts.

Those efforts would cover about $60.6 million altogether, bringing the district within about $1.4 million of bridging the budget gap.