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Distribution of New Seats by Borough

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson has overseen Shelby County Schools since the 2013 merger of Memphis City Schools and the legacy Shelby County district.

Kyle Kurlick

Shelby County Schools’ budget includes staff reductions and program cuts

Shelby County Schools’ initial budget proposal for the 2014-15 academic year includes the loss of 33 schools, dramatic cuts across the district’s departments and investments to increase student literacy and achievement.

The administration’s 450-page budget proposal to cut almost $103 million from its operating expenses was posted online Monday afternoon. The district’s school board will have to approve the cuts before they’re made final.

Shelby County Schools is anticipating the loss of  state and county revenue that will follow the thousands of students that will attend a municipal school district in the fall. SCS is also bracing for the impact of five additional charter schools forming and the loss of schools to the state-run Achievement School District.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II said in the budget announcement that the district’s budget will decrease by 19 percent from $1.2 billion to $961.3 million.

He also said the budget process began with a $103 million budget deficit and that the budget reflects “consensus and tradeoffs” made by members of his administrative team with his direction.

“This year’s budget development is bittersweet in that we now face the formation of municipal schools in the six suburban areas of Shelby County,” Hopson said in a letter included in the proposal.  “We are moving forward with resolve to provide the best educational experience possible to the estimated 117,000 students that will remain with Shelby County Schools.”

The district plans to employ more than 7,000 teachers and estimates that just 117,000 students will attend in the new school year.  That’s 23,000 fewer students than the district is serving this year.  The budget also accounts for a continual decline in student enrollment as the district competes with myriad educational options in the area.

Shelby County Schools’ priorities as outlined in the budget proposal are to accelerate student achievement by focusing on kindergarten through third grade literacy initiatives, improve low-performing schools and develop, recruit and retain effective teachers. Other goals include designing effective business operations, build employee and community confidence in the district and ensure schools are safe, clean and well-prepared for learning.

Few departments and programs were left unscathed by the proposed budget cuts.

In the Department of Innovation, the director of innovation position will be eliminated. Six positions will be eliminated from the Finance Department and there will be several staff reductions in the Academic Department.

Shelby County is also eliminating five voluntary pre-k classrooms because of budget cuts and the municipality split and the district will no longer offer driver’s education as an elective course.

Shelby County School Board members will review the budget proposal and will be able to ask questions of department heads this week. School officials expect the board to approve the budget by March 25 and present the budget to the Shelby County Commission by April or May. A date for the budget hearing and final approval has not yet been determined, but the budget must be approved and sent to the state by Aug. 1.

“This year, we face new challenges and opportunities, as the financial and academic landscape shifts again as we continue to prepare for the formation of municipal districts,” Hopson said. “The district will have to be nimble and react as additional information is received.”