SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - Shelby County Schools went before Shelby County Commissioners for the first time Wednesday to lay out the district's billion-dollar general fund budget for the 2018-2019 school year.
The district is asking for a nearly $13 million increase.
It was a packed house Wednesday with SCS officials, board members, parents and other groups as the district laid out its budget request for county commissioners.
Commissioners appeared generally receptive to the budget and the ask, but County Mayor Mark Luttrell expressed concern.
The circumstances are a far cry from five years ago in the wake of the city school merger when the district had to cut tens of millions and shed 1,000 positions
"We've had to build the plane as we've been flying it. I think at the end of the day we are fiscally stable, and I think we've created the conditions that we need to create so we can see some of the student outcomes that we want to have," Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said.
The general fund budget of $1.05 billion includes a $12.7 million request for more money for career and technical programs, school resource officers, and literacy expansion across all grade levels.
Next year teachers will see 3 percent raises and other staff will get 2 percent.
"At the end of the day when we give this increase I don't want to see it taken up in red tape and getting to appointed positions rather than the teachers and the children," said Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland.
The nearly $13 million ask is more than the $7.5 million that Mayor Luttrell's team budgeted for.
"Any time the budget is looking that much out of balance I'm very concerned," Mayor Luttrell said.
Mayor Luttrell said he's committed to a county tax cut and with added funding demands for pre-K he is urging commissioners to be thoughtful in their discussions.
"I'm not saying that the schools don't need the money," Mayor Luttrell said. "I think the schools always use the money, but I'd like to see a stronger presentation on the merits of the increase that's been requested."
In a district where 40,000 of the students live in households that make less than $10,000 a year, Superintendent Hopson said SCS faces difficult and frequently heartbreaking challenges.
"When you're a kid and you show up and you haven't eaten, you had to get up and move in the middle of the night because you've been evicted, or your mom's been a victim of domestic violence or you're constantly dodging bullets, those things take dollars to educate," Hopson said.
The vote on the SCS budget is expected to happen sometime closer to July 1.