MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The no-shows at the Shelby County Commission hearing said a lot. When Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and others started discussing the Transitional Planning Committee’s proposals for a merged school system, they did it in front of four empty chairs, where some of the plan's biggest critics normally sit. So the critics didn’t hear a plea for fifteen million dollars that the TPC says is needed right now. It’s an issue the commission is going to have to vote on, possibly as early as next week.
The money is needed for a new computer system that TPC members say is critical. Dr. Barbara Prescott, who heads up the TPC, says, “This is one area that we are looking for a one time investment on to get the system operational.”
There will be a lot more to pay. Dr. Prescott says her group did everything they could do, but there will still be a $57 million deficit in the budget for the merged school systems.
Tennessee law says all budgets must be balanced. Prescott says the city could help by continuing to send at least $4 million into the merged school system, and there’s a chance the state will help.
There is one other option. “If necessary,” she says, “we recommend coming to this body, the commission, if there is still a deficit, to seek funding for education in the county.”
There were only two Republicans attending the meeting, and of those two only Commissioner Brent Taylor has come out against the merger of Memphis City and Shelby County Schools. The other Republican, Mike Ritz, has supported the plan, but told TPC members that getting a tax increase next year is something they shouldn’t count on. “I’m not sure what the chances are for a thirty five cent tax increase next year, but we need to start, all of us, thinking about the dilemma and the opportunity we are faced with.”