MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The holidays are over. Schools will reopen. Problems will again pop up. And the Unified School board will try to vote on recommendations by the Transition Planning Committee, or the TPC.
"I have been disappointed in what I've seen so far," says Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell. "They have progressed very slowly through the TPC recommendations."
The TPC had recommended closing 21 under-utilized schools as a way to save money. The board hasn't voted on a single closing. A budget - are you kidding? They're supposed to have a preliminary one done in a few weeks.
Mayor Luttrell says they need to be prepared, because he's going to bring along his Brillo pads. "We're going to scrub that budget hard with two things in mind," he says. "First of all, we can't sacrifice the quality of education. By the same token, we've got to keep our education budget within a reasonable expenditure."
The whole process slowed down because of this past year's court hearings about municipal schools. Now it has to shift into overdrive. Here's the big issue. Even if the board approves all the cuts recommended by the TPC, the system would still be $57 million in the red before it starts operations. This is why the budget is a critical piece of the puzzle. Mayor Luttrell says he'll take a magnifying glass to this budget. "I think we owe that to our citizens," he says.
There is only one place Shelby County can get more money if its needed. It's from the Bank of... well, it's from you folks. There is no interest right now in raising property taxes. But they do want to know what to expect when it comes to the budget. It's why Mayor Luttrell says he expects action.
"If they're going to be able to give us a reasonable estimate of their budget for next year by mid-January," he says, "they've got a lot of work to do between now and January to address the balance of the TPC recommendations."