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School Merger Budget Battle; Where To Cut?

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(Memphis) The Shelby County school board is going over the numbers, figuring out  what will stay and what will go in a billion dollar budget.

"Looking at the 157 million dollar gap would be draconian cuts," says School Board Member Tomeka Hart.  "I'm really scared of changes we would have to make that would directly impact the classroom."

There's already talk of moving assistant principals to other schools, worrying some on the board.

"We are talking about moving some assistant principals out of the county schools and into city schools instead of having to level up, we are having to level across," says School Board Member Mike Wissman.

School Superintendent John Aitken told News Channel 3 in a interview Sunday it's  still preliminary, but to get the budget funded, taxes may have to go up.

"We all have to come together. Nobody wants to pay more taxes. If we are not gonna pay more taxes let's everybody that got skin in this game, figure out a way to do it," said Aitken.

It could put programs, like Driver's Education, on the chopping block.

"I don't mean to diminish Driver's Ed, but please. Let's talk about A-P, talk about English, talk about the core. Driver's Ed is great, but that is not our core, Our core business is educating our children," says Hart.

They are tough decisions for the 23 school board members.

"It's hard to make decisions with 23 different people. We need some camaraderie to leave our egos at the door and try to do what's best," says Wissman.

There will be community forums on the preliminary budget Monday and Tuesday nights from 6pm to 8pm at  the Teaching and Learning Academy on Union Avenue.

The board may vote next week to get the preliminary details approved and moved on the County Commission to get budget negotiations started.