Unified School System in Dire Straits with Budget in Limbo

Unified School System in Dire Straits with Budget in Limbo

Shelby County Commissioners shot down a big tax increase that would have sent $20 million to the school system. School board members may have to make up the loss by dipping into the district's already low reserves or by firing more people.
MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) - The new Unified School District suddenly has a serious math problem - the numbers don't add up.

Shelby County Commissioners shot down a big tax increase that would have sent $20 million to the school system. School board members may have to make up the loss by dipping into the district's already low reserves or by firing more people.

More than 2,000 people have been laid off from jobs with the unified Shelby County school system. 300 people were told to hit the road in the central office just before the July 4th holiday.

The real fireworks would be not on the 4th but on July 8th, when county commissioners voted against a 36 cent tax increase; 6 cents of that was earmarked for schools.

"This whole concept of a world class educational system, I think, is so far gone now," said school board member Martavius Jones. "I hate to play the blame game, but the responsibility lies with the county commission because they are our second largest funding body behind the state of Tennessee."

Terry Lenox is hoping to get a job with the unified Shelby County school system, but realizes she won't be living on easy street.

"People who have masters or doctorates, they go in, they're not getting a raise in salary when they go in. So it doesn't matter if you have a masters or a doctorate, everybody is going to get the same amount of pay."

Some people say they're hoping a little prayer will break up the political procrastination, while others are crossing their fingers.

"I'm very hopeful," said one employee, "I'm very positive about the situation. I'm sure they'll handle it accordingly."

Jones doesn't share that optimistic feeling, especially when he hears commissioners say the school budget is way too fat.

"If there's a county commissioner who can point to me the bloat, I would love to see it," he said.

Here's the thing to remember. Classes start on August 5th, which is less than a month away. There's no time left to fool around.

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