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Compromise Concerns Cash

MCS, council members try to meet in the middle at Bridges.



New Memphis City Schools superintendent Kriner Cash may have initially said he could figure out a way to live with the City Council's $66 million budget cut. But Thursday, August 14th, at a public meeting held at Bridges U.S.A. in Memphis' Uptown neighborhood, the superintendent was singing a different tune.

Whatever may have been said in the past, it's clear that the superintendent and his team have determined that MCS needs the city funding commitment, not just this year, but in perpetuity.

Cash referred to a gloomy PowerPoint presentation and said that without the additional funding, jobs would be lost, textbooks won't be replaced, initiatives won't be launched, and significant additional cuts will have to be made in years to come as the system fails to meet its state-mandated cash reserves.

Cash justified six-figure salaries offered to new hires by saying the generous salaries were market value. He also said that a majority of the job cuts would come from the system's main office and administration.

The superintendent's presentation assumed yearly increases in operating costs though school enrollment has been in decline.

The proposed compromise between the city and the school system is, quite literally, passing the buck.

The school district would transfer $57.5 million from its reserves to the city, an amount the council says it's owed for debt-service on bonds it issued for the system. The city would then give the $57.5 million back to the school system, which would allow the district to balance its 2008-2009 budget.

The problem, according to MCS, is that the one-time transfer doesn't replace the funding stream the school district loses if the council continues to withhold funding in the future.

If projections are correct, MCS could witness a budget shortfall of $14 million by 2010.

The dialogue between city officials, school district personnel, and the public was hampered by a series of ground rules designed to allow such a meeting in light of a pair of lawsuits the city and the school district have filed against one another.

At press time, the City Council's budget commitee had approved the compromise and sent it on for a full council vote.

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