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Will Duval County half-cent sales tax money be used to rename schools?

District official explains funding process for potential school renaming

The first of four community meetings to decide on the names of nine Duval County schools will be held Tuesday night. News4jax reporter Joe McLean addresses how these school renamings would be funded if they're passed
The first of four community meetings to decide on the names of nine Duval County schools will be held Tuesday night. News4jax reporter Joe McLean addresses how these school renamings would be funded if they're passed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Ever since the Duval County School Board voted to put the names of six schools on the table for renaming consideration, the issue of how those potential name changes will be funded has been the subject of passionate debate on social media.

Many opponents of the renaming effort, which later expanded to include nine schools, have argued it’s a waste of public money, with some of them under the impression that revenue from the recently passed Duval County half-cent sales tax would fund the project.

Duval County Public Schools director of communication Tracy Pierce told News4Jax that those funds collected from the half-cent sales tax would only be used for school renaming in a very limited and specific set of circumstances.

“We want to be good stewards of taxpayer money,” Pierce said. “So we are not going to pay for signs twice. If a school were to get through the name change process and a name change was decided upon, and that school was also going to be renovated or reconstructed in the next year or so, we could wait and use the half-cent sales tax to actually buy the new signs that were going to be bought for that school anyway.”

For example, Jefferson Davis Middle School, J.E.B. Stuart Middle School and Jean Ribault High School are among the nine schools under renaming consideration and also slated for significant renovation under the district’s master facility plan.

Pierce said that it’s possible, should the names of one or more of those three schools remain unchanged after this process is completed, that the half-cent sales tax revenue could finance the replacement of those schools’ signs anyway.

Of the various costs associated with renaming a school, Pierce explained, replacing the apparel for extracurricular activities (band uniforms, sports equipment, etc.) carries the biggest price tag. Those costs fall outside the parameters of the half-cent sales tax revenue, which is earmarked only for facility improvement.

If the school board ultimately decides to change any of the schools’ names, funding would first be drawn from community donations.

“In a perfect world, we would cover all the expenses with community donations,” Pierce said. “Second, it depends on the expense. If it’s a school uniform, it would be our operating expenses. If it’s a capital expense, like signage, as I said, that could be the half-penny and it could also be our normal capital expense revenue that we get from the state and locally.”

Pierce estimated the sum of all the costs of renaming a high school to be around $200,000, renaming a middle school to be about $150,000 and renaming an elementary school to be roughly $100,000. Should the school board ultimately decide to rename all nine of the schools under consideration, the costs would add up to around $1.4 million.

SchoolEstimated cost
Joseph Finegan Elementary School$100,000
Stonewall Jackson Elementary School$100,000
Jefferson Davis Middle School$150,000
Kirby-Smith Middle School$150,000
J.E.B. Stuart Middle School$150,000
Jean Ribault Middle School$150,000
Robert E. Lee High School$200,000
Andrew Jackson High School$200,000
Jean Ribault High School$200,000

While the process is still in its early stages, it’s nearly impossible to predict the number and size of public donations, which leaves the Duval County community wrestling with two separate points of contention: the merits of renaming these schools and what money will be used to do it.

More information on upcoming community meeting dates and a more detailed timeline of the renaming consideration process can be found on the DCPS name change tracker webpage.

About the Author:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.