Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Next Up: How to Pay for 8 New Schools

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Next Up: How to Pay for 8 New Schools

Article excerpt

After hearing a recommendation to build eight new schools in

the next five years, St. Johns County school officials now have

to figure out how to pay for them.

A proposed $185 million, five-year building plan calls for up

to eight new schools to accommodate a projected 21,488 students

in the next five years. Property taxes, impact fees, a sales

tax, federal funding and other possible funding options will be

explored at a School Board workshop at 6 p.m. Feb. 25.

One cost-cutting measure introduced at the first workshop

Tuesday involves reducing the need for new high schools by

shifting ninth-graders to middle schools and sixth-graders to

elementary schools.

Because high schools cost more to build, this shift would

reduce the need for high schools and could save the district $51

million. More discussion on this reconfiguring of grades, and

the impact it could have, will be held at a March 11 board

workshop at 8:30 a.m. Both workshops will be held at the School

Board building, 40 Orange St., St. Augustine.

School officials are workshopping their way through the

recommended building plan in hopes of having a finalized plan

approved by the state by mid-summer. Two workshops have been

scheduled and more are expected in March and April, to collect

input and brainstorm ideas. So far, reconfiguring grades has

been suggested as a cost-saver and community members and parents

have criticized the board for planning new schools when an old

one is in disrepair.

As it stands, the plan calls for three, and possibly a fourth,

elementary school, each at a cost of $12.1 million. Elementary

schools are slated for St. Augustine, the northwest and

northeast parts of the county. A fourth elementary school

recommended is a replacement school for dilapidated Hastings

Elementary School in the southern part of the county. The

elementary schools would open between 1998 and 2002.

The plan also calls for opening two $18 million middle schools

between 1999 and 2002 and two $31.5 million high schools between

now and 2002. However, locations have not yet been identified.

The plan also includes $17 million for renovations to Nease and

St. Augustine high schools and $20.8 million for buses and

equipment needed for new schools and existing schools for the

next five years.

The state bases its funding for school districts on their

five-year building plan and student projections. The state must

agree that a school district's plan is reasonable before it wins

support. However, state funding is never enough to supply needed

facilities. Local support is expected, said School

Superintendent Hugh Balboni.

While planning for future schools, school officials Tuesday

were chastised for poor conditions at an old school. …

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