Superintendent clears the air on budget problems - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Superintendent clears the air on budget problems

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson met with reporters Monday to clear the air on some of the staffing and budget issues that the district is trying to work out right now.
    
168 teachers have received surplus notices.  That means the teachers have been declared "surplus" by the principals of their respective schools, but are free to apply for any of the 1,000 projected teacher vacancies for next year.  This year, Hopson says, the surpluses were due to performance issues, not seniority as years past.

Fox13 has received many e-mails and social media comments that these surplus notices are due to the merger.  But Hopson said this is not the case.  He says last year Shelby County schools alone handed out 120 surplus notices.  168 surplus notices are for the combined Memphis and Shelby County teaching pool of about 8,000 teachers.

The combined district will also lose nearly 100 teachers and teacher assistants in pre-k classrooms due to the federal sequestration.  It is a funding loss of about $8 million.

The district is still trying to figure out the formula for paying the teachers, principals and support staff district wide.  State law gives the district three years to "level up" pay so everyone is paid equally with comparable jobs.  Leveling up is an $11 million budgeting item; it may be delayed until next year.  Shelby County School's principals are paid more the Memphis City Schools principals.  Memphis City School's teachers are paid more than Shelby County School's teachers.

The district is also trying to figure out the staffing formula for principals and assistant principals.  The formula for Shelby County Schools is more generous, and expensive, than Memphis City Schools.  Hopson said they will likely meet somewhere in the middle for number of principals and assistant principals in the schools district wide.

Hopson is aiming for a budget that is about $40 million more than the combined districts' budgets from last year.  He says they are finding efficiencies every day.  The first budget presented to the school board was about $65 million more than last year.

One place Hopson said they've found efficiencies is in central office staffing.  Roughly 1,000 people will be applying for 700 to 750 jobs in central administration.  The Transition Planning Commission recommended a cut of 26% in staff.  Hopson said they may cut as much as 30% of staff.  They are also cutting salaries of those positions.  

Several weeks ago positions were posted with ranges of salaries. Those positions, Hopson says, have been completely re-organized as a cost savings measure.  Filling the positions will be complete by the end of June, he says.

Hopson says it is a misconception that the budget woes are from the merger of the districts.  He says decreased funding has had Memphis City Schools cutting positions for the last few years.  And he says Shelby County Schools has used reserve funds for the last few years to keep its generous staffing model, and those funds would have dried up this year, with or without the merger.  There is also the yearly loss of students in both districts that equals less funding, he says.

A loss of about $60 million in funding from the city of Memphis can be attributed to the merger.  The 26% to 30% reduction in central office staff and those salary reductions are also tied to the merger.
Hopson is projecting presenting a budget that is $40 million more than the combined budgets from last year.  He says he's been told by county commissioners to expect no more than $5 million more.  He says the balance could be made up from the Memphis City Schools fund balance, not fully funding the OPEB (post-employment benefit fund) liability, and possibly some money from the city of Memphis.  Memphis owes Memphis City Schools $57 million, but has not paid up because of counter suits still pending in court.

Hopson says he hopes to have a budget complete by the end of the week.  The district will present its budget ask to the county commission next month.

 

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