VOL. 127 | NO. 13 | Friday, January 20, 2012
Arlington and Lakeland Schools Reports Read Differently
By Bill Dries
Newly-released reports on the idea of municipal school districts in Arlington and Lakeland read a bit differently than the previous reports released this week by city leaders in Bartlett, Germantown and Collierville.
All five reports are by Southern Educational Strategies LLC of Memphis. And all five rely on the same legal opinion for the formation of the municipal school districts. That opinion puts a lot of weight on court rulings involving annexations by city governments in which cities got school buildings and other public facilities at no cost..
But each report outlines the size of a particular municipalities school district and where the students would live and which schools they would attend.
All five would require some kind of cooperative agreement among the municipal school districts and/or the Shelby County Schools system which is in the process of consolidating Shelby County’s two public school systems and already has a merged school board overseeing both systems.
The difference is in the boundaries and the minimum level of local spending required by state law to form a municipal school district. The level of spending is the equivalent of 15 cents on the city property tax rate.
In the case of Bartlett, Germantown and Collierville, the studies concluded each city could instead use a half cent local option sales tax increase to create the same amount of revenue and maybe more than is needed.
But Lakeland does not have a city property tax rate. And the SES study estimates a half-cent local option sales tax would raise only 66 percent of the minimum amount required by state law, meaning the rest would be raised with a first ever Lakeland property tax.
The local sales tax option in Arlington would raise 86 percent of what a 15-cent city property tax hike would raise. So, one scenario would be to combine that with a three cent property tax hike.
The Lakeland school system outlined in the SES report would not be a K-12 system. It would be a K-5th grade system of 819 students. Like the other municipalities, it would take in students from outside Lakeland.
The Lakeland district would include all students who live in Lakeland and attend Lakeland Elementary School and students who live in Lakeland but attend schools outside Lakeland would continue to attend their schools under “cooperative educational contracts” established in state law that would be negotiated.
The Arlington school system would be 4,887 students. The school system would take in students living in Lakeland who are now in the attendance zones for Arlington High School, Arlington Middle School and Donelson Elementary School. It would also include students who live in Bartlett but are in the attendance zone for Arlington High School. Unless Bartlett built a new high school, Bartlett High School could not handle all of Bartlett’s high school age students. The Arlington school system would also include students from the city of Memphis annexation reserve areas north of Macon Road who now attend Arlington High and those in unincorporated Shelby County in a rural reserve area whose attendance zone includes what are now county schools in Arlington.
The SES report commissioned by Millington city officials has not been released yet.