District restores arts, music and PE to proposed budget

Updated: Oct 19, 2018

July 24, 2018 - Duval County Public School Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene will recommend that funding for arts, music and physical education resources be maintained at its current level in the budget recommendation for the upcoming school year.

The recommendation means that students should see no changes to the level of these teaching resources available at their schools next year compared to last year, assuming that school enrollments are comparable.

The recommendation comes after the Duval County Public School Board asked previous Superintendent Dr. Patricia Willis to keep arts, music and physical education funding whole while still trimming $62 million from its budget due to state funding shortages.  Dr. Willis and district leadership arrived at recommendations that Dr. Greene will carry forward through the budget approval process.

“Arts, music and physical education provide important developmental experiences for children,” said Superintendent Greene. “I am thankful the Board is supportive of other strategies to balance the budget and that we will continue this district’s commitment to arts, music and physical education.”

Originally the district administration proposed balancing these educational resources across schools to save more than $2 million. Rather than make this adjustment to the arts budget, the district will recommend delaying its objective to build its unassigned reserve funds over the minimum level. School Board policy requires unassigned reserves  between 3 and 5 percent.

“Our original objective was to move reserves closer to the 5 percent maximum for next year,” said Chief Financial Officer Michelle Begley. With a per-student allocation of just 47 cents per student compared to a normal increase of $50 to $100 or more per student in previous years, Begley said this isn’t the year to make progress on that goal.

The total of assigned and unassigned reserve funds is about 4.75 percent and is currently well above the statutory requirement of 3 percent.

“We have significantly enhanced our budgeting practices to improve accuracy,” Begley said. “The budget is based on predicted costs, and we have vastly improved the fidelity of our factors to predict costs.”

The result is a budget balanced completely on new revenue and other revenue sources for the year and does not include an expectation to use reserves.

“Being good stewards of public funds means operating within the revenue available,” Superintendent Greene said. “This will be our practice going forward, and I’m hopeful the legislature will help us both meet the needs of our students and improve fund balances to the level preferred by the School Board.”

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