Unified School District budget meeting planned for weekend - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Unified School District budget meeting planned for weekend

(WMC-TV) - A big meeting is planned this weekend to determine how much money is needed to run the new Unified School District.

The Shelby County Commission will take its first stab at balancing the unified schools' budget on Saturday.

A property tax increase appears to be inevitable, according to Shelby County School Board commissioners, including the board chairman.

"You have to look at this and say what's logically, politically, reasonably going to happen?" said Shelby County School Board Commissioner Billy Orgel.

Shelby County Board of Education Chairman Billy Orgel says paying for the merged school system will be a balancing act with a multi-million dollar budget gap.

"The final figure came out to $145M," Orgel explained. "Which is a preliminary number that we've given to the Shelby County Commission."

The school board also calculated a low figure option. With extreme cuts, the gap could be filled with 65 million dollars.

"To get to $60 million, you're going to have to raise property taxes 40 cents, which is right underneath the 10% the County Commission can approve with a majority vote of their 13 members, seven votes," Orgel said.

They would need a super majority of nine votes to raise taxes any more than that.

"We need to figure out our staffing, we need to figure out what's best for our children going forward in this community and we need to make Shelby County a place people want to locate in," explained Orgel.

He says a tax increase was likely without a school merger because the 2012 drop in housing values means the county will get less revenues from property taxes.

"I think we're going to see a decrease in valuations, which means the tax rate, whether we did nothing with the schools is still going to have to go up," Orgel said.

He added that efficiencies should be explored first.

"If there's too much staff, if there are better, more efficient ways to do things, that's where we look first and the last place we need to look is to affect the children in the classroom."

Orgel says at the same time as they preserve the classroom, they must not over-tax citizens.

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