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Price for DCPS’ plan for new schools and maintenance projects more than double original estimates

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The projected cost for DCPS’ plan to build 28 new schools, make repairs to aging schools, and cut down on the number of portables is significantly higher than originally planned.

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Once expected to cost $1.91 billion over the course of 15 years, DCPS’ Master Facilities Plan now has a projected price tag of $3.91 billion.

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That’s a 104 percent increase.

Additionally, with the district now having to share roughly $860 million of its revenues from the half-cent sales tax meant to pay for the repair of aging schools and construction of new schools with charter schools, the district has less money at its disposal to cover the additional costs.

“We’re shocked, but not surprised,” Duval School Board Chair Darryl Willie said.

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Willie explained the updated cost projections are due in large part to inflation and supply chain issues experienced during the pandemic.

“We kind of saw the trends start to happen. Post-COVID a lot of costs for materials and building construction all went and skyrocketed,” Willie said.

He noted there are multiple options on the table to help cover the additional costs, including taking out more bonds, reprioritizing certain maintenance projects, and even possibly the consolidation of some existing schools.

“We have a number of schools that may be under-enrolled at this point because of various choice options. So, it’s looking at various schools and maybe combining two schools to combine resources,” Willie said.

One option he said he’s hoping to avoid is a tax increase.

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“We have no intention to go out and ask for more money from taxpayers. That’s not our idea at all. What we want to do is try to keep the original plan the original plan, and sort of focus as much as we can on tweaking and adjusting,” Willie said.

Despite the new sticker price, Willie emphasized the district’s priorities remain the same.

“We said to the community we are going to put greater facilities in our areas that need them most. That is still the number one priority and we’re going to continue with that priority and then we also want to make sure we’re being fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars,” Willie said.

Willie said there are still a lot of conversations that need to take place before the board decides on the best way to move forward.

So far, the Master Facility Plan has already paid for increased school security and the completion of one new school.

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Seven more school construction projects are scheduled to be completed over the next two years.

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