City Council Chamber, 1st floor, City Hall

November 14, 2017

11:30 a.m.


Location: City Council Chamber, City Hall – St. James Building; 117 West Duval Street,

In attendance:

City Council Members Anna Lopez Brosche (President), Greg Anderson, Danny Becton, Aaron Bowman,  Katrina Brown (arr. 12:40 p.m.), Doyle Carter, Garrett Dennis, Al Ferraro, Bill Gulliford, Reggie Gaffney, Tommy Hazouri, Jim Love, Joyce Morgan, Matt Schellenberg, Scott Wilson

Excused; City Council Members Reggie Brown, John Crescimbeni, Lori Boyer, Sam Newby

School Board Members Paula Wright (Chair), Becky Couch, Cheryl Grymes, Lori Hershey, Warren Jones, Ashley Smith Juarez, Scott Shine


Also: Peggy Sidman and Paige Johnston – Office of General Counsel; Kyle Billy and Kim Taylor – Council Auditor’s Office; Cheryl Brown – Director/Council Secretary; Carol Owens, Adri Segui, Crystal Shemwell – Legislative Services Division; Jeff Clements – Council Research Division; Bill Killingsworth – Director of Planning and Development; Chris LeDew – City Traffic Engineer; Dr. Patricia Willis – School Superintendent; Don Nelson – Assistant Superintendent for Operations


Meeting Convened: 12:07 p.m. (following lunch beginning at 11:30 a.m.)


President Brosche called the meeting to order and Council Member Carter gave the invocation and led the Pledge of Allegiance. A verbal roll call of both bodies was taken.


School Board Member Warren Jones started the first topic – concurrency management and funding for schools designated as storm shelters – by noting that the school district has not received any funding from the concurrency management system for school purposes. The district has the largest number of schools 50 or more years old in the state, and plans to build 2 new K-8 schools. The School Board has millage levy authority, but cannot increase its current millage without a voter referendum, unlike the City Council that can raise the rate with a vote of the Council. Don Nelson, Assistant Superintendent for Operations, explained the magnitude of the district’s capital needs for new schools, repairs, upgrades, expansions and recent hurricane damages. In response to a question about reductions in the school millage in recent years, Mr. Jones said that the state controls the district’s millage rate and is responsible for the reductions in recent years. School Board Member Couch noted that a recent change in state law requires the School Board to share district capital funds with charter schools, which are not under the same state requirement to make and publish 5-year capital plans. Council Member Schellenberg noted that the St. Johns County Commission recently raised its sales tax to benefit schools. In response to a question from Council Member Morgan, School Board Member Jones said that the district has a long list of prioritized needs that they will share with the Council.


Chairwoman Wright suggested the need to appoint a subcommittee with members from both bodies to explore how the School Board could begin receiving revenue from the City’s concurrency fees. Mr. Nelson said that the district is generating approximately $95 million in capital funding this year and it is estimated that the charter schools in the county will be eligible to receive approximately $16 million in capital dollars over the next 5 years. He noted that the rules attached to uses of funding are not the same for public schools and charter schools. School Board Member Hershey said that the continuous millage rate roll-backs by the Legislature prevent the schools from receiving any benefit from assessed value growth in the county. She noted that the Duval Legislative Delegation has agreed to visit school storm shelters in the next month to see the needs.


In response to a question from Council Member Bowman, School Board Member Scott Shine said that the district is not permitted to go into the charter school business, except that persistently failing public schools may be converted to charter schools. In some parts of town the emergence of charter schools has had little effect on the public schools because they were already overcrowded; in other areas the charters are drawing students out of public schools with available capacity, thereby increasing the costs of running half-empty schools with fewer per-pupil dollars. He said that the district faces the daunting prospect of having to make $1 billion in repairs and upgrades to existing schools which will require a huge bond issue at some point.


T.R. Hainline, Chair of the Joint Planning Committee appointed jointly by the School Board and City Council, explained the committee’s functions. He noted that public school concurrency was a requirement of state-mandated city and county comprehensive plans until 2011, when the state law was changed and the requirement was removed, making that element optional. The Joint Planning Committee has met 11 times over the last year to discuss school concurrency issues. Mr. Hainline distributed minutes of a recent meeting of the school district staff and the School Board appointees to the Joint Planning Commission to discuss the concurrency system. A basic finding by the School Board staff is that it is impossible to determine how many children from a new residential development will attend neighborhood schools because of the wide range of attendance options available to families (open enrollment, charter schools, magnets, private schools, etc.). Determining concurrency measurement zones is problematic; if the zones are too large then they will encompass distant schools with available capacity and all development reviews will pass; if the zones are too small (i.e. each school’s attendance zone) then a concurrency funding account will need to be established for each zone and they will generate small amounts of funding that are insufficient to make any substantial improvements. The Joint Planning Committee recommended that Jacksonville abandon school concurrency, as 24 other Florida counties have already done, including Palm Beach County. School Board Member Jones noted that most counties in Florida have impact fees that help fund their school systems, including fast-growing neighboring counties like St. Johns and Clay.


Chris LeDew, City Traffic Engineer and Chair of the School Safety Committee, discussed how the City and School Board staff can work together to address traffic issues relating to schools. He invited City Council and School Board members to send him any specific concerns about safety issues for the committee to explore. He reviewed the Committee’s policy on where school safety zones and crossing guards are warranted. In response to a question from Council Member Dennis, Mr. LeDew promised to look into the question of whether school buses can be parked in residential neighborhoods and if not, what enforcement mechanism is appropriate. Council Member Hazouri urged better communication among elected officials and staff at both the school district and city government to highlight problems, make requests, and share information. In response to a question from Council Member Katrina Brown, Mr. LeDew said that most of the work done by Traffic Engineering with regard to schools is complaint-driven rather than proactive, in part because of the small staff and volume of work that needs to be done.


President Brosche thanked everyone for their attendance and said that another meeting to continue discussing items of mutual interest may be in order. School Board Chair Wright said that there is a lot to celebrate in the school system (only 1 failing school out of 133 district-managed schools in a B-rated district) and the schools need the City’s support and promotion. Building neighborhoods and revitalizing economies will revitalize the schools with new residents and economic progress. Ms. Wright said that she definitely wants to schedule another joint meeting to discuss how to revitalize neighborhoods and their schools.


Meeting adjourned: 1:33 p.m.


Minutes: Jeff Clements, Council Research Division

11.15.17     Posted 3:00 p.m.

Tapes:  Joint City Council/School Board meeting – LSD