New Unified School District Budget Shows $80 to $90 Million Debt

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(Memphis) Superintendent John Aitken is rolling out what he says is a preliminary budget for the new Unified School District. It is the largest merger ever to take place in the country and it may mean a tax increase for Shelby County.

Today, News Channel 3 talked one-on-one with Aitken about the budget and what it means for the students and people of this county. Aitken says there is less money to run the district that is why it is $80 million to $90 million in debt before the doors even open. He attributes the shortfall to a decline in population in Shelby County and the city of Memphis pulling out its part of the funding since it no longer is obligated to help pay for schools. The responsibility now rests solely with county government. Aitken is holding public meetings Monday, February 4, and Tuesday, February 5, to explain the budget and tough choices that have to be made including cutting jobs and possibly raising taxes.

“We don’t want to minimize it. We need the community input. We need the community feedback. We want to hear. It will be emotional. We understand that. This whole issue has been emotional. My thoughts we have got to open school in August,” said Aitken.

Supt. Aitken says community feedback is important so citizens can have input in the new budget. Those meetings are this Monday, February 4, and Tuesday, February 5, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Teaching and Learning Academy at 2485 Union Avenue.