Schools Budget "best we could do" says Superintendent

Posted by John Branston on Thu, May 16, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Dorsey Hopson
  • Dorsey Hopson
The Unified Shelby County School Board voted 17-3 Thursday to send its proposed 2013-2014 $1.186 billion budget to the Shelby County Commission.

Capping three straight days of public comments, staff revisions, and discussion among members, the board got the job done in about 90 minutes in an early afternoon meeting. It is the first budget presented by the combined Memphis and Shelby County school boards and is $75 million less this year's combined budgets. Some members confessed to being groggy after the long work week and watching the Grizzlies play until nearly midnight Wednesday.

"I think we have done the best job we could to cut $75 million but keep as far away from classroom cuts as possible," said Superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

The budget has a deficit of $30 million that will have to addressed by the county commission. Hopson said the deficit started at $57 million, so the smaller deficit represents progress, and board members noted that the budget request is lower than the one proposed by the Transition Planning Commission.

It makes some cuts the TPC did not recommend but declines to make others on the scale recommended by the TPC, notably in the area of school closings. Facing intense pressure to get schools open this summer, and working under the eye of federal court-appointed special master Rick Masson, the board left that debate for another year. Enrollment projections released by the schools administration this week peg the unified system at about 138,000 students. Charter schools and Achievement School District schools bring the total to about 150,000. The unified system is expected to shrink drastically next year if suburbs form their own systems.

Voting against the budget were former MCS board members Kenneth Whalum Jr., Sara Lewis, and Betty Mallott. Among those voting for it were the prime movers of MCS charter surrender, Martavius Jones and Tomeka Hart.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has proposed a property tax increase that would partially offset the deficit. If it passes, the combined Shelby County and Memphis property tax rate, based on numbers currently being considered by the commission and city council, could be right around $8.

Comments (12)

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This is what the county Mayor was quoted as saying he wanted them to have done in January and they are just now finishing things up with a 30 million dollar deficit? That is swell news.

Is the budget online anywhere? I would love to read it.

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Posted by merlin on 05/16/2013 at 10:09 PM

Basically they couldn't get this done sooner because the parties involved had to politically posture for a while. They had to wait until the last minute to start being realistic about the cuts.

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Posted by GroveReb84 on 05/17/2013 at 6:30 AM

"..The unified system is expected to shrink drastically next year if suburbs form their own systems..."

IF? IF? Seriously?

Does everyone in this town speak in code? It ain't CYA when the Emperor has no clothes. Someone needs to point this fact out. It's getting obscene.

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Posted by OakTree on 05/17/2013 at 7:15 AM


I don't think they will ever accept the fact until they wake up and notice that thousands of students are not showing up on the USD rolls.

"If it passes, the combined Shelby County and Memphis property tax rate, based on numbers currently being considered by the commission and city council, could be right around $8."

Someone please explain the property tax increase to me. What is this $8? $8 increase per $100, that should put Shelby county in the national news, or $8 increase because of the schools, or what?

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Posted by diogenes323 on 05/17/2013 at 8:19 AM


There are no facts to accept yet about the municipal schools option. Yes, the law is on the books, however, it has been challenged in court and that must be sorted out.

The expense of starting a msd, not to mention buildings and/or equipment has not even begun yet. It is obvious that some of the munis will not be able to support their own school district on top of the 8 dollar property tax rate.

What you, Diogenes and others don't quite grasp is the challenge to the state law about the disparate effect it would have on the mostly minority unified school district. The article on the Detroit Schools touched on it, but no-one seem to have noticed. Michigan has a funding scheme just like Tennessee. Schools are funded by the number of students enrolled. When and if those students leave the district, the funding follows the student, however, the cost of maintaining the schools, buildings, maintenance, equipment, etc goes up or remains the same. Since mostly minority students would be left in the unified schools, loss of that funding along with the white students(social and/or physcological effect) would have a disparate impact on the minority students. The General Assembly passed the law. It is assumed that the legislators realized what disparate effect this law would have on the minority students of Shelby County, but passed it anyway. So, just because the state made the law to apply statewide doesn't automatically mean that it is constitutional. They have erred many times in the past with laws that were statewide. What would happen to the minority students in the other counties, Knox, Davidson, Hamilton, if the suburban munis decide to form their own msds too? I would suspect that it will have a more harmful effect than in Shelby County. Baker, Donelson are no fools. This case is not over by a long shot if the CC continues it.

So, to you, Oaktree and others, this may not be as cut and dry as you would have us believe.

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Posted by Oldtimeplayer on 05/17/2013 at 9:08 AM

First off, OTP, ... many of the buildings will follow the students to the MSD's, along with the associated debt. Those are likely the newer buildings which will have the most debt attached to them.

It's far past time that the feasibility of every event should revolve around the "alleged" impact it will have on "minority" students. It's far past time the
"big majority minority" take responsibility for themselves and quit whining and depending on someone else to do for them what they should be doing for themselves, ... like, raising their kids properly.

One of the major reasons people decide to purchase property and reside in a certain area is the quality of the schools their kids will be attending. They are prepared to shoulder that cost when they make that decision. In most cases, it will cost them much more than if they had remained in the urban municipality. That's ok with them, as long as it's reflected in the level of service they receive.

Most states do not have the counties responsible for the education function, it is a municipal responsibility. In New York, for instance, your municipal property taxes can vary dramatically for adjacent municipalities depending on the level of service the citizens in each have decided to fund for themselves, ... including the schools.

In other words, you pay for what you receive.

This is what the proposed munis want also. Is there something wrong with this?

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Posted by JuliusJones on 05/17/2013 at 9:40 AM


Has that constitutional challenge to the new law been filed yet?

Seems like the Supreme Court ruling in Martinez settled that issue of disparate impact.

We are waiting for all those legal challenges from the Department of Education and the Justice Department, or from parents, or the SCC, or whoever.

If we need to litigate the buildings and equipment issue, we will. But I think we will not have to do that.


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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 05/17/2013 at 10:27 AM

No Julius, there is nothing wrong with it.

There is nothing wrong with an incorporated city taxing itself to pay for whatever service level they want, and in many cases, that'll mean that city will have better service than the cities nearby.

That's why people have freedom of mobility. You can pick your city based on the taxes oh want to pay and the service you want to receive. There is nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

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Posted by GroveReb84 on 05/17/2013 at 10:27 AM


BTW, any remaining debt on those buildings will remain with Shelby County as a whole, and not be passed to the Munis.

State law.

Those are public buildings, the debt issued by the SCC. It stays with the SCC as long as those buildings are used for the purpose for which they were built.

The muns will not "own" the buildings in the ussal sense, just like the Shelby County BOE does not own the buildings in the usual sense. The buildings are ADMINISTERED by the local LEA for the ducation of the children they serve. That will be us.

Common law says so:

Prescott v. Town of Lennox
Baker v. East Baton Rouge

There are NO court cases that say otherwise, and the Tennessee Supreme Court decision in Prescott is still the law in Tennessee. Opponets might try to make the case that the facts of both these cases are so different that these laws do not apply here, but that is a lost cause. Read them and decide for yourself.

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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 05/17/2013 at 10:38 AM

Look, get the MSD's up and running for 2013-2014 academic year. Plan for the Shelby County School District or whatever the name will be to be about the same as the former MCS minus the ASD. Suburbs set your tax rates. Memphians, we need to impress upon the council to prepare to restart the MOE after the suburbs declare their intentions by electing school boards and structuring their central offices. At that point, reconstitute MCS, annex the areas around the Southwind High and Elementary schools and move on.

Memphis residents need to be aware that every penny spent outside of the city is a penny that goes from a Memphis student to a student who's family and community want nothing to do with us, and act in our best interest. County commission, I want the payment of MOE to stay where it is, and not a farthing more for anyone (well, adjustments for inflation). We all know where we stand so lets get on with it.

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Posted by jrgolden on 05/17/2013 at 11:02 AM

@ JR

You must be a bit confused about how this works.

First, the whole idea about MCS surrendering its charter was for Memphis to get out from under its MOE obligation. I wish you luck pursuading them they should turn around and support the formation of a new municipal system and start that MOE back again.

Every penny spent outside the city is spent on educating your fellow children who live in Shelby County. All the money comes out of the same pot.

I think you are going to find that the suburban schools will work with the Shelby County System to educate all the children. That is why our leaders have approached the Unified BOE and suggested talks to figure out how we can do it. I do notice it was us who had to make the approach. The common interest in education should override any local interest, but if you think you must close your borders, and you want to go it alone, we can't do much to stop you.

I am suprised that an educator would encourage the SCC to not fully fund the budget request by your own school system. Any particular reason you want your children to make do with less?

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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 05/17/2013 at 12:05 PM

Elections are funny things. A group of committed candidates can mobilize enough people in off year elections to change the composition of a legislative body. I, for one, never bought into the paradigm put forth by pro-consolidation proponents. I grew up here and understand the people of Shelby County. With that said, it is in the long term interest of the citizens of Memphis to reconstitute it's own municipal school system.

Every municipality gets a specific amount from the County Commission based on attendance, and then each municipality does what Memphis did up until two years ago. Tax and make up the difference.

As for the budget request, it is in the best interest this year to bite the bullet this year since the suburbs and their representatives had made it clear that this is a one year shot. Our students and the other stakeholders will make a way until the separation. Also, after sitting through a few suburban board/listening meetings (Collierville was my favorite) I am fully aware of the "feelings" that motivate my "fellow citizens" feel in reference to education.

It is obvious that the common interest will never take hold here, so it is in the best interest for each municipal entity go it alone in reference to the schools. We have nothing to offer each other so let's drop the pretense.

As for closed borders, I never stated/ infered that. It's just not smart to spend where it's not in your best interest. If you listen to your fellow pro-municipal school posters, you will notice the glee that comes with statements like "keep shopping at Hobby Lobby and Bounce Zone in Bartlett. You're helping us fund our schools with the muni sales tax." Or my favorite one: I don't work, shop, eat, or play in Memphis." One doesn't need a code book to understand these sentiments. City shopping and internet shopping do have their appeal.

Posted by jrgolden on 05/17/2013 at 1:28 PM
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