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VOL. 129 | NO. 79 | Wednesday, April 23, 2014

SCS Board Approves $946.9 Million Budget Proposal

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Schools board members approved a $946.9 million operating budget proposal Tuesday, April 22, that now goes to the Shelby County Commission for review and from there to state education officials.

The 6-0 school board vote includes a $248.6 million reduction in revenue available to the school system for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the first fiscal year of Shelby County’s demerger of public education into seven school districts.

As a result of the demerger, Shelby County Schools will see an estimated $16.4 million less in Basic Education Program funding from the state.

Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson said his staff has found a way to make up for approximately $7 million of that loss through other revenue sources. Revenue estimates include about $2 million more in county funding through better property and sales tax collections.

The budget also includes using $19.4 million in the school system’s fund balance or reserve fund.

Hopson said the cuts were balanced against the district’s push to improve reading literacy rates among third graders. The most recent state achievement test scores show only a third of the school system’s third graders are reading at grade level.

To fund programs and initiatives aimed at aggressively improving that percentage, Hopson said he and his staff made tough decisions including cuts to world language programs, although some of the classes originally included among the cuts were restored.

So were 26 pre-kindergarten classrooms that were to be cut in the budget’s first draft.

The budget does not include any additional world language teachers. It also would keep the current set of three bell times in the next school year as well as eliminate driver education classes and a two percent cost of living adjustment in pay. The budget also cut funding in the new fiscal year for digital devices that are part of the school system’s “blended learning” pilot project originally funded at $5.9 million.

Hopson and his staff found approximately $4 million in the current operating budget of $1.1 billion to fund the purchase of some of the devices for the new school year.

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