Funding Our Schools
Last week, the Tennessee State Supreme Court decided that they will not hear our appeal regarding the Memphis City Schools funding decision. This concludes a long, complicated legal process to determine city government’s financial responsibility to our public schools. To make a long story short, we are now obligated to pay the schools the $57 million that they are owed.
Education and preparation remain the principle priorities of this administration. Memphis is making some great strides in the quality of our schools, with tens of millions of private dollars coming into the district to fuel powerful new reforms. Under my administration, children in Memphis will get the best possible education. Our city’s economic strength depends on it.
That being said, I’m not going to sugarcoat the situation for you: this decision will have an enormous impact on our city. $57 million is approximately 9% of our total operating budget – a huge sum of money for us to find.
I didn’t ask for this crisis, but I’m certainly not going to run from it. The City Council’s decisions two years ago have left us in a difficult position. At this point, there are no silver bullets or shortcuts. There are only difficult choices and shared sacrifices.
This crisis actually underscores some deeper issues with the city’s finances that have been brewing for sometime. That is why I initiated the Strategic Business Model Assessment process to refine the city’s revenue model and budgeting methods. New leadership in our Human Resources and General Services divisions continue to uncover new opportunities for improvement.
I will continue to take a deliberate, common sense approach to resolving this issue. I’m going to spend this time listening to all stakeholders and weighing all options so that together we can arrive at the fairest, fullest solution possible. I have already met with leaders of the labor unions that work for the city and will keeping meeting with my employees, local business leaders, and school representatives to see where we can cut expenses and find new sources of revenue that will cause the least long-term hardship to you.
Whatever we choose to do will be fair, transparent, and rooted in real data. I am working now on scheduling another virtual town hall meeting so that the public will understand exactly how we got here and how the different options we are considering will impact our services and operations.
In spite of this challenge, I remain relentlessly optimistic about the future of Memphis. We have overcome greater challenges than this in the past, and we will overcome again. Memphis is turning a corner, and we will emerge stronger and better. Right now, I am counting on your ideas, your faith, and your continued support of our great city.