In a 4-1 vote, the Jackson County Board of Education agreed Monday night to proceed with a restructuring plan designed to cut $6-$7 million from system expenses. Included in the plan, which will take effect in the upcoming FY2013-2014 budget, will be the consolidation of some schools, including the move of South Jackson Elementary School into the current Kings Bridge Middle School facility. The Gordon Street Center will also be shuttered in the restructuring.
The vote cumulates weeks of discussions by system officials about how to deal with a major financial crisis. The BOE learned in February that it’s projections of revenue for the current year would fall short by $3 million and that expenses next year are projected to go up by $4 million. In the weeks since, system officials have floated a variety of ideas looking for a way to keep the system from having a financial collapse as it did in 2010.
But some of the ideas, including the relocating of SJES and moving 8th Graders from KBMS and East Jackson Middle School into an unused wing of East Jackson Comprehensive High School, received a lot of flak from parents.
Monday night, three people who had spoken out to the BOE at earlier public meeting again voiced opposition to the board’s plan. Angie Scarborough, Diane Nunn and Janet Adams told the board that it was moving too fast with the changes and that it should reconsider some of its proposed moves.
In addition to the facilities consolidations, the system is also combining and eliminating some positions. But the system is also planning to have only two furlough days next year compared to the six it has this year. Additional furlough days could be added, however, if the school’s finances face an unexpected problem during the year.
The restructuring plan is the first step in the system’s FY2013-2014 budget, which will be presented for approval in June.
In presenting the restructuring plan, superintendent John Green said the system’s “first priority is to be financially secure.” He said that while the focus of some of the earlier discussions had changed, the system had attempted to be “very transparent” in the process of restructuring.
“This is an urgent matter,” he said. “We cannot operate in a deficit.”
BOE member Celinda Wilson, whose district covers SJES, made the motion to approve the restructuring plan. In an emotional comment at the end of the meeting, Wilson thanked the people in her district who had contacted her about the controversial restructuring.
“I voted yes because this is the best thing for the community,” she said. “The majority of people in my community wanted me to vote yes.”
The lone “No” vote came from Tim Brooks. Brooks said after the meeting that after months of weighing the issues, he “couldn’t pull it out to vote yes.” He said he realized the system had to do something to address its financial problems, but he wasn’t in favor of moving SJES to the Kings Bridge facility and closing that school.