JACKSONVILLE — The city Board of Education on Tuesday approved its 2019 budget with a $221,000 deficit and money to possibly erect a new central office building.
The deficit stems mainly from financial cuts by the city and the hiring of two new teachers to handle growth in enrollment this year. Meanwhile, a new central office is needed as legal negotiations wrap up for the school system to leave its current headquarters at the former Kitty Stone Elementary, owned by Jacksonville State University.
The Jacksonville Board of Education approved its approximately $16.3 million 2019 fiscal year budget during its regular Tuesday meeting. The 2019 budget year begins Oct. 1.
Sara Blount, school system finance officer, said after the meeting that she was unsure how the deficit could be reduced in the coming months.
“We have cut everything,” Blount said. “I can’t think of anywhere else to cut.”
Blount said much of the deficit is from a proposed $125,000 cut from the city — half of a stipend the city has given the school system in recent years. The Jacksonville City Council still hasn’t approved its 2019 budget.
Blount said the hiring of two new teachers this year who aren’t state funded account for the rest of the deficit.
“They were added because we had additional students,” Blount said.
The new budget makes two years in a row that the board has faced a spending deficit. The board started its 2018 fiscal year with a $125,000 deficit, again because the council halved the $250,000 stipend. Since then, Blount has made various small spending cuts to reduce the deficit. Also, the board could receive more state funds this year than expected, which would help with the current deficit even more, Blount said.
“Before this year is over, that will reduce,” Blount said of the current deficit.
Included in the 2019 budget is more than $900,000 in state money, allocated only for facility construction and maintenance projects, that the board wants to use mainly to build a new central office building.
Superintendent Mark Petersen said after the meeting that it's possible construction could begin as early as next year. The exact cost of the building and where it would be constructed haven’t been determined, Petersen said.
“It depends on what’s being built,” Petersen said of the cost. “But we’re not going to build a Taj Mahal.”
Petersen said the board’s and JSU’s attorneys have been in negotiations almost since 2016, when the school system opened the new Kitty Stone Elementary.
“We had a 50-year lease and when we moved out of the old Kitty Stone, they said we broke our lease,” Petersen said of JSU. “We started working to create a solution.”
Petersen said he might know next month how long the school system will have before it must move to a new central office.