Jacksonville schools formalize financial, strategic plans
by Paige Rentz
Sep 14, 2012 | 3443 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Jacksonville Board of Education finalized plans Monday to guide the district’s decision-making on spending, infrastructure and educational philosophy.

Members approved a new budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year and updated capital and strategic plans.

The district’s $13.67 million budget contains no fluff, said Superintendent Jon Paul Campbell. Because of a drop in enrollment of about 80 students for the 2011-12 school year, the district’s state funding is down by nearly $500,000 — about five teaching positions.

But with a bump of about 55 students at the beginning of this year, the district had to hire back two teachers with local funds. The district also lost about $49,000 in state funds for transportation and other expenses.

Campbell said the district is in its fifth year of cuts. “We’re about as lean as we can be and still offer a quality instructional program,” he said.

The district wasn’t hit with any real surprises in terms of cuts, said board member Mike Poe. Campbell said that as long as the county sales tax holds steady, the district should be in good shape.

Poe said finance officer Sara Blount does a great job of being conservative in projecting the district’s revenues.

“If we’re surprised in any way,” he said, “we want to be surprised on the upside in the collections.” He also noted that the administration carefully watches expenditures and has done a good job of building the district’s reserves beyond the one month’s operating expenses required by state law.

While the district’s operating finances have been decided, its capital spending is still up in the air because the Jacksonville City Council has yet to finalize plans for a proposed public safety complex to be built with a portion of the one-cent sales tax rise that took effect last year.

As a result, the capital plan the board approved contains provisions for either building a new elementary school or upgrading and renovating the existing Kitty Stone Elementary. A middle school is also part of the capital plan, again contingent on what money is available.

“It’s just kind of up in the air,” said board member Steve Smith. “We’re just kind of doing what we can with what we have. It’s up to the public and the City Council that represents the public to decide what we’re going to do.”

The district’s highest infrastructure priority, according to the plan, is an upgrade to its 14-year-old heating and cooling system slated to occur during Christmas break. Campbell explained that the system, which he called extremely high-tech and energy efficient, is in need of a software upgrade. The project is urgent, he said, because cards for the control panel for the current incarnation of the system are no longer produced and cannot be replaced.

The strategic plan approved by the board is a broader document focused more on vision and mission than the more tangible budget and capital plan.

Work on the document will continue as the schools and district staff work to create yearly improvement plans to implement the strategies and achieve goals in specific ways.

Star staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.
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