Duval School Board Pauses On School Renovations While Legislature Considers Bill

Apr 18, 2017

The Duval County School Board and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti in a workshop, Tuesday.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

The Duval County School Board is delaying plans to build a new auditorium and stage renovation at the Fort Caroline arts magnet middle school.

The board would have voted on the project next month, but now it’s deferring the item. It’s waiting to see what happens with a state bill that could drain the district's capital dollars.

The bill would require school districts to share local tax dollars reserved for building additions, maintenance and technology with charter schools, which are public schools run by private companies.

Duval’s schools district has a backlog of $120 million in maintenance projects, and an annual debt payment of about $36 million. But if the bill passes, the district could have between $30 to $40 million left to pay those expenses and future projects compared to the $86 million the district normally gets.

Board member Becki Couch asked to defer plans to update Fort Caroline’s campus, which was converted into a performing arts magnet last summer. The cost of the project is $2.5 million, which was already budgeted this year.

Couch said if the bill passes the Florida Legislature, the district could potentially be in crisis, meaning that money may have to be used for basic maintenance, like roof repair.

The House and Senate are in the process of negotiating a version of the bill. The board said it will revisit the building addition once the legislature comes to a decision.

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.