Shelby Co. Commissioners Hold Fate of School Budget

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(Memphis) The Shelby County School District's budget asks for $35 Million more than last year, and some county commissioners say they may not get a penny of it.

The school board initially asked the commission for an increase of about $145 million dollars to pay for unified schools.

The district cut their request down over a hundred million dollars but some commissioners say that may not be enough while others say there were too many cuts.

The county commission gave Shelby County $361 Million dollars to run schools this year.

By law they have to give them that same amount, but they aren't required to give the additional $35 million the school's budget calls for.

Right now the commission is projected to be about one hundred million in the hole.

“Well, they`re going to get a tough reception. There is going to be a lot of scrutiny given to the school budget.  Especially in light of the way they fund athletic programs and their push for Pre K,” said Commissioner Wyatt Bunker.

Bunker says they have to walk a thin line between saving money and hurting classrooms.

“We have a responsibility to the tax payers to use their dollar as best we can,” said Bunker.

Commissioner Henri Brooks says she doesn`t like a lot of the cuts like teacher jobs and the creation of larger class sizes, and thinks some money may need to be restored back to the budget.

“Are we going to close these schools and kill these communities and still have large classrooms or do we need to do something else? Maybe outsource Pre K?” said Brooks.

Commissioner Steve Baser says the clock is ticking and they can`t plan for the rest of the county budget until the school district brings the commission something they can handle.

“The rest of the budget is waiting on this item. But it also comes down to the tax rate and the other revenue we are trying to generate,” said Baser.

Baser says the commission will have to cut spending and raise property taxes to afford the district`s budget.

Bunker says if the Commission agrees to that $35 Million increase by law they will be required to give the district that same amount of money next year even if the suburbs break off and create their own districts.

If the school board approves the budget Thursday the commission will get it next week.