The Jackson Public School District is asking voters on August 7 to approve a $65 million bond issue to help repair and renovate its schools, but there has been no move to reduce the outsized staff at the JPS central office as compared with other school districts.
The district has also underfunded maintenance as compared to other school districts as well.
According to the audit report by the Mississippi Department of Education that was released in August 2017, the MDE said there were 959 staff members at the JPS central office. The district says that the MDE counted employees not assigned to a particular school, such as bus drivers and mechanics, as part of the central office. The JPS says its central office has 265 employees.
Using a spreadsheet of employee salaries obtained through a records request, the JPS central office payroll adds up $11,539,999.61 annually. Six employees make more than $100,000 annually, while 29 make at least $70,000 per year or more.
JPS has more than 25,000 students.
For those keeping score at home, that's one central office employee for every 96 students. According to the last available budget from the JPS for the 2018 school year, the system spends only 46.7 percent of its money on instruction.
The JPS was third from the bottom of the state's 147 school districts with half of its schools listed as failing by the MDE in the last accountability grades. JPS has earned a failing grade in the last two evaluations.
The number of central office employees outstrips several other higher performing school districts by a large margin. DeSoto County has just under 34,000 students, yet its central office staff has been cut to about 141 positions. That's about 241 students per administrator.
The district received an A in the last accountability ratings and district officials told Mississippi Matters that the district has a goal of spending 74 percent of its budget on instruction in the upcoming school year after spending 71 percent this past school year.
Clinton Public Schools, which has more than 5,200 students, has 50 employees in its central office and a ratio of 105 students per administrator. Clinton received an A rating in the last accountability grades.
Rankin County has 104 central office employees for 19,134 students or a ratio of 183 students per central office employee.
If the Jackson Public School District's bond issue of $65 million is passed by voters, the district plans to use $15.5 million to correct deficiencies listed in its corrective action plan filed with the Mississippi Department of Education. The rest of the bond money will also help renovate other schools with new doors, windows, drainage improvements and electrical upgrades.
The reason for the bond issue is deferred maintenance. Last year, the JPS proposed spending only $500,000 or 0.38 percent of its budget on maintenance on more than $152 million worth in buildings and facilities. The year before, the district spent $800,000, again only 0.38 percent of its budget.
In comparison, Rankin County spent 16.7 percent of its $257,789,671 budget on maintenance for its more than $131 million in buildings and facilities.
DeSoto County spent 10.6 percent of its $300,131,031 budget in 2016 on maintenance on its more than $369 million worth of buildings and other facilities.
In Ocean Springs, 10 percent of the budget was spent to maintain more than $53 million worth of district buildings and facilities.
If approved, the bond issue will add up to a five mill tax increase ($5 per $1,000 in taxable property value) since the 5 mills were supposed to expire this year.
Taxpayers living in the Jackson city limits are already paying 84.01 mills to support the JPS, the most in the metro area.
Hinds County schools (67.05 mills), Clinton schools (67.94 mills), Rankin County schools (56.55 mills), Pearl schools (60.40 mills), Madison County schools (54.55 mills) and Canton schools (58.25 mills).
Below is a list of the renovations listed by school that was posted by Jackson City Councilman Melvin Priester Jr. A CAP next to the item means that the improvement is part of the corrective action plan.