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VOL. 128 | NO. 94 | Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Schools Budget Gap At $35.7 Million In New Budget Draft

By Bill Dries

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The countywide school board should have a budget proposal ready for the Shelby County Commission by the end of this week. And as it stands now, it would require just under $36 million in new funding.

The budget will be for the first fiscal year of the merger of Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools.

School board members are scheduled to get a budget draft proposal presentation from interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson and his cabinet Tuesday, May 14, at a 5:30 p.m. budget information session. The session will also include time for public comments.

The budget proposal school board members were looking over Monday totals $1.18 billion with a $35.7 million gap between revenue from all sources and expenses. That means if the budget proposal presented is the one the board approves, the school system would be seeking $35.7 million in new funding from Shelby County government for the first fiscal year of the schools merger, which begins July 1.

The board meets Wednesday, May 15, from noon to 5 p.m. for a question-and-answer session on the presentation.

And the school board will then meet Thursday, May 16, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss and vote on a budget proposal. All of the meetings are at the Teaching and Learning Academy, 2485 Union Ave.

Countywide school board members are scheduled to receive a budget draft proposal from interim superintendent Dorsey Hopson Tuesday afternoon.

The schools budget proposal is due at the County Commission’s budget committee on May 22.

With the new fiscal year, the commission becomes the sole local funder of the consolidated school system. It has been the only local funder of Shelby County Schools and provided most of the local funding to Memphis City Schools pre-merger.

County Commission Chairman Mike Ritz has said the commission probably has only a simple majority of votes for a property tax hike to provide extra local funding for the consolidated school district. That means a 9.9 percent property tax hike, because a tax hike of 10 percent or above requires a nine-vote two-thirds majority.

A 9.9 percent tax hike would provide the schools with an estimated $9 million in new funding, under Ritz’s plan.

Hopson has said the amount of new funding the school system is likely to seek from the County Commission could be as much as $40 million. But Hopson said he and his cabinet will also be prepared with other budget plans that include no new funding.

The initial budget plan presented to the commission will depend on what the school board approves Thursday.

The board sent a tentative budget proposal seeking $145 million in new funding in February to the commission at the commission’s budget retreat.

The commission was never expected to vote on any amount. The preliminary “ask” by the school board was an estimate to test the waters on both sides of the political equation.

But commissioners at the retreat expressed opinions that overwhelmingly indicated the body would not approve new funding anywhere near that level.

The total included funding to apply the richer Shelby County Schools staffing formula to the larger Memphis City Schools operation.

Since then, Hopson and his cabinet have tried several staffing scenarios, including slimming the staffing formula in county schools to the city schools model. Hopson rejected that, and the current model is somewhere between the two existing school system models.

The school board has also, since February, acted on the major and most controversial merger recommendations made by the consolidation planning commission.

That includes a board vote to outsource custodial services and the awarding of a $21.9 million contract to GCA of Knoxville to do the work.

The board, in April, also approved a plan for the hybrid outsourcing of some transportation services but not all.

And after voting earlier this year to close four Memphis schools, the board is now considering a list of 12 additional schools Hopson has proposed for closure in the 2014-2015 school year, the second year of the merger.

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