Commission OKs $13.9M for unified district - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Commission OKs $13.9M for unified district

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

In a Shelby County first, commissioners on Monday approved $13.9 million for the newly merged Unified School District.

County commissioners approved the money 12-1 that will purchase a new computer system to handle payroll and finances for the merged district.

Several commissioners say the money is necessary to build a successful school system.

Administrators were originally asking for $15 million, but they say they can get the job done for less.

"This is where we need to go in this kind of cooperative spirit if we're going to make this school system and all of our school systems the best systems they can be," said Commissioner Heidi Shafer.

This is the first time county commissioners have been asked to send money for the new school system. While some commissioners are supporting municipal school districts, they said they also need to support the unified district.

"I would like to say that I would like to see some more cooperation toward the municipal schools instead of fighting us all the time," said Commissioner Chris Thomas. "Maybe this could be a step where we could all work together to try to help all these young people have a good education."

Shelby County Schools Superintendent John Aitken said this is the first of many important decisions before city and county schools are officially merged in August 2013.

"We're making a big cake here," said Superintendent Aitken. "We've got a lot of things that have to go in it. We just need to get to the point that we're ready to put the cake together."

The transitional planning committee will have to put together a budget in the next few months.

"There are a lot of things that are going to have to happen that are going to require a lot, a lot, a lot of work still," Aitken added. "We're wading through it, but it's refreshing to hear some people kind of grasping the urgency of this thing, knowing that we've got to move forward."

The Unified School District will have to come back to the county commission to award the contracts for the new payroll system. The budget for the new school system needs to be in place by July 1, so classes can start on time in August 2013.

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