• 'Children can't learn in a bad environment.': DCPS explains massive building maintenance backlog

    By: Courtney Cole , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    The Duval County School District says funding cuts led to a nearly $2 billion shortfall that's needed to renovate the oldest schools in the state. 

    Action News Jax told you last week when DCPS passed a half-cent sales tax proposal to fix the aging schools. 

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    Now they need help from Mayor Lenny Curry and City Council to make this special election happen in November.

    More than $200 million is needed to pay for a massive maintenance backlog.

    Parents wanted to know how we got to this point — Action News Jax Courtney Cole went to the school district for answers.

    "Children can't learn in a bad environment where a school is decaying. They need to take care of it,” said Annette Defeo.

    Defeo told Cole she just moved here from New Jersey.

    When Cole explained the half-cent sales tax proposal to Defeo, she said if it means helping the  kids, bring it on!


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    “I think if the schools need assistance then that's reasonable as far as I’m concerned. We don't pay income tax,” Defeo said.

    Action News Jax told you last week when the Duval County School Board approved a resolution for a half-cent sales tax, to help raise $1.95 billion needed to fix the schools.

    It would be in place for 15 years, start in January 2020, and help them generate $1.3 billion in a 15-year period.

    But how did we get here? 

    Don Nelson, the assistant superintendent of operations for DCPS, says it's because they've been forced to try and maintain these old school buildings, for years, with a lack of funding.

    MORE: Duval County Public Schools discusses how to fund nearly $2 billion to repair, replace schools | DCPS suggests proposals for aging school improvements, replacement | Duval County Public School Board to vote on half-cent sales tax to fund repairs, new schools

    "You can't fix $243 million dollars with $18 million to $19 million a year. You can't fix $1.03 billion with $19 million a year,” said Nelson.

    Nelson says this issue didn't exist in the school district until the state legislature cut back the mills from 2.0 to 1.5.

    "So that alone accounted for almost a $100M cut. So when you cut that out, you automatically end up behind in maintenance,” said Nelson.

    Nelson said if this half-cent sales tax doesn't happen, they'll have to take the step they're trying to prevent.

    "At some point, the buildings will decide on their own that they can no longer function. And I think as the superintendent said, then we would have to close schools at that point,” said Nelson.

    Cole  requested a more specific breakdown of how the money is being used throughout different areas in the Duval County School District.

    She’s still waiting to hear back.
                
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