Over the next two weeks, Shelby County School administrators will be looking to whittle down the district’s $24 million budget gap in order to present the school board with a balanced budget on Feb. 28.
The district began its budget planning process with a $103.7 million budget gap and has reduced that to $24 million, according to an email Superintendent Dorsey Hopson sent to board members this month. School officials attributed the budget shortfall to declining enrollment and the loss of an estimated $68 million in funds that will follow students who leave to attend one of the new municipal school districts in suburban Memphis, charter schools, or the state-run Achievement School District next year.
The board’s budget and finance committee met on Thursday to discuss the district’s budget calendar, which includes a board review of the budget and four community forums.
Board chairman Kevin Woods requested central office department heads present specific budget requests and provide the rationale for the cuts proposed.
“I want to hear from the larger departments about what’s in the budget and why,” Woods said. “We need to know where board members are on the budget before we go out in the community (to discuss it).”
During Thursday’s committee meeting, interim chief financial officer Alicia Lindsey did not provide any specific areas that would be cut from the budget.
Some key dates proposed in the draft budget calendar include a budget and finance committee meeting with district department heads during the first week of March. The community will get to ask questions about the budget beginning on March 17 in the Northeast region, in the Southeast region on March 19, in the Southwest region on March 20 and in the Northwest region on March 21.
After the community meetings, the budget will be reviewed again by the school board before it is submitted to the Shelby County Board of Commissioners. There will be a hearing with the commission in order to discuss and approve the budget. Once the budget is approved by the board and commission it is submitted to the state. That must be done by Aug. 1. The budget cannot be increased once the commission has approved it.