Municipal Schools Referendums Remain Off 2012 Calendar

By Bill Dries

Referendums in the Shelby County suburbs on the creation of municipal school districts remain off the table after the Tennessee House removed an amendment from a bill that would have allowed the referendums this year.

The legislation including the amendment had already been approved by the Tennessee Senate Monday.

The House action Wednesday, April 11, was to remove the amendment from the bill. It was added on the House floor without committee approval. It prompted a flurry of questions from legislators in other parts of the state across party lines.

The legislators wanted to know whether cities and towns in their counties could move for referendums on the schools questions this year. And the uncertainty in some answers and conflicting answers at other points prompted House Education Committee chairman Richard Montgomery of Sevierville to detach the amendment from his bill.

The legislation goes back to the Senate.

Suburban leaders had scheduled the first of two referendums for May 10 on the general question of establishing the municipal school districts with plans for a second referendum in August on a half cent local option sales tax increase to fund the schools.

But the Tennessee Attorney General responded to a request for a legal opinion on the matter by saying the suburbs could make no move toward municipal school districts until Shelby County’s two public school systems were merged at the start of the 2013-2014 school year.