School district budget gap could mean hundreds of job cuts - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

School district budget gap could mean hundreds of job cuts

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - The $90 million budget gap to fund the merged Memphis and Shelby County school systems may be much wider than previously thought -- to the tune of $157 million.

This budget gap means that either cuts to the classroom or a hefty property tax hike could take place. This has always been a possibility, but it appears to be becoming a reality.

The school board held an all-day retreat Monday to crunch numbers, take a look at what is on the chopping block, and consider how much taxpayers will spend to fund the unified school district.

Shelby County Superintendent John Aitken says the increasing gap is a hard dose of reality.

"The board may be asked to make some recommendations that, in my mind, could hurt kids," said Aitken.

School board commissioner Tomeka Hart says the board needs to take a comprehensive approach to the budget that will offer students a world class public education.

"We should go to the County Commission and say we have this $157 million gap," said Hart. "There are some very Draconian cuts we can make, but that's not the kind of system we want. We need the community to be part of the discussion and say here's the gap, fund the gap."

Commissioner Wissman anticipates cuts or a tax hike.

"We have to make either tough cuts to make it work or the Shelby County Commission is going to have to come back with an incredible amount of funding to help us get to that point which is going to mean an incredible property tax increase," said Wissman.

Aitken says transportation, custodial, and other services may have to be outsourced, and jobs will be lost.

"What we have in this document is a 26 percent reduction in central office staff so you're looking at anywhere from 150 to 200 people," he explained.

Everyone agrees more planning is necessary.

School leaders are presenting the preliminary budget to the public at the MCS Teaching and Learning Academy on Union Avenue.

The board will tweak the budget and present the final draft to the Shelby County Commission to ask for full funding on February 23.

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