MCS & SCS providing separate budgets

(WMC-TV)  Memphis City and Shelby County Schools will present separate budgets until next year's merger.  City schools are looking at $900 million, while county schools are looking at a budget of $360 million.

"Operationally, you still have Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools as two separate entities.  So that's why it's not a consolidated budget yet," said Unified School Board Commissioner Martavius Jones during an interview conducted via telephone.

Jones says both school systems share one challenge: the county has not increased school funding for four years.  The city schools' budget reflects 96 job cuts and the closure of three schools.  Both school systems plan to dip into reserves to avoid tax increases.

"Both school systems have had to spend from the equivalent of their savings account to cover increased costs," stated Jones.

Higher gas prices mean higher transportation costs for the school systems.  Lifting the charter school cap means less money for all Tennessee public schools.  The cost of benefits is rising, and the state is mandating cost of living salary increases.

While the schools are functioning separately, some collaboration is underway.  The two school systems plan to share the expense of a student data program, tracking test scores to attendance.

"They've both collaborated to come up with an RFP to select a data warehousing company," said Jones

And some of the 90 million dollar Gates Grant money will expand to county schools to study the best way to train and retain teachers.

Next year's consolidated budget has perks and hurts.  Costs will increase to bridge the 1% difference in city and county teacher salaries.

"You have to increase the salaries to what the higher of the two would be.  The compensation study now will cover Shelby County Schools as well as Memphis City Schools.  " stated Jones.

Jones says streamlining can also be expected.  No vote is expected Monday.

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