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VOL. 133 | NO. 104 | Thursday, May 24, 2018

Hopson’s Schools Budget Features $12.7M Gap for County to Consider

By Bill Dries

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The school year that ends Thursday, May 24, marks five years since the historic change in public education kicked off in August 2013.

First was the one-year merger of city and county schools, followed by the demerger into seven public school systems within Shelby County.

And the superintendent of Shelby County Schools at the start of that cycle says five years of change for parents and children and a holding pattern on district finances is finally giving way.

“Well, now we really are going from laying off a bunch of people to paying people a living wage, and from closing a bunch of schools to building new schools in the inner city of Memphis and investing in schools,” SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson said this week before taking a $1.05 billion general fund budget to the school board.

Dorsey Hopson

The budget, which is a mix of county, state and federal funding, has a gap of $12.7 million between expenses and revenue and includes the school system using $35 million from its reserve fund.

Hopson takes the proposal to the Shelby County Commission’s budget committee May 30 – the day after the school board votes on it next week.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s budget proposal, which the commission is also considering, calls for $7.8 million more in county funding than the current fiscal year for all seven of the county’s public school systems, divided up based on average daily attendance. That would bring county government funding of all seven school systems to $427 million.

“One of the things that the County Commission always told us when we first started this was, ‘You guys need to do the hard work and you guys get your house in order and once you’ve shown you can do that then we’ll be supportive.’ And they’ve been very supportive,” Hopson said of the relationship. “This year, I think that given the focus on CTE (career technical education) and given the focus on the significant social and emotional needs of our kids, I think our ask is fairly modest.”

Hopson’s budget proposal includes $24.5 million for education assistants, teacher and principal pay raises and new school resources aimed at addressing the social and emotional needs of students through behavior specialists and guidance counselors.

It also includes expanding Innovation Zone Schools and the Whitehaven Empowerment Zone network of connected schools that in the next school year will include more elementary schools.

“I think we are in a much better place than we were certainly a few years ago,” Hopson said.

More than half of Hopson’s $85 million capital request is for the construction of new elementary schools – Alcy and Goodlett – bigger versions of those schools that will allow SCS to consolidate nearby schools into them.

The County Commission has already approved both of those construction projects.

There is another $20 million for maintenance across the school system that takes in all of Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County and another $20 million for additions to schools at capacity.

Last year, the school system did similar additions at Delano, Grahamwood and Richland.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 64 87 1,429
MORTGAGES 39 60 1,107
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 8 14 204
BUILDING PERMITS 92 209 3,265
BANKRUPTCIES 42 84 837
BUSINESS LICENSES 21 23 352
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0