Duval School Board approves $1.9 billion plan to fix aging schools

Funding dependent on Jacksonville City Council, voters approving sales tax

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duval County School Board voted Tuesday night to approve the Master Facilities Plan to repair or replace Jacksonville's aging public school buildings.

The plan, estimated to cost $1.9 billion, would be financed by revenue from a half-cent sales tax that needs Jacksonville City Council approval to get on the ballot and a majority of Duval County voters to support it. City Council hasn't voted to allow the vote in November.

Some of the district’s school buildings are more than 100 years old, and district officials have documented crumbling walls, broken air conditioners, leaky classrooms at dozens of Duval County schools.

While school officials asked for a referendum to be held this November, Mayor Lenny Curry and most City Council members appear to want the measure to appear on the general election ballot in 2020.

A parent who spoke during the meeting believes there's a need for immediate action. But board member Charlotte Joyce wanted to take more time before approving the plan.

"With a vote 16 months from now, we have an opportunity to answer the most frequently asked questions I get, and fine tune what is now a rough draft," Joyce said."

"Take some people on tours of the schools. Even schools people don't think are in need of a lot of repairs," said Tim Gardner, a parent. "There are still issues at every school. That's documented well in the plan that every school will benefit.

While the tax revenue would come in gradually over 15 years, Superintendent Diana Greene said she would immediately ask for a $500 million bond issue so that work could begin immediately on the projects that school board members consider top priorities in their individual districts.

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