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VOL. 128 | NO. 227 | Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Arlington and Lakeland School Pacts Get Unanimous Approval

By Bill Dries

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The Shelby County Schools board approved unanimously Tuesday, Nov. 19, agreements to sell four school buildings and material in those school buildings to the forming Arlington and Lakeland municipal school systems.

The school board approvals on a set of four 7-0 votes Tuesday evening at a special meeting is the first hurdle of several to come for the tentative agreements that first surfaced Monday at the Shelby County Commission meeting with word from those in the negotiations.

The commission meets next in special session Thursday to vote on the agreements.

The agreements the school board approved not only transfer the school buildings, they include an agreement by the Shelby County Commission to end the still pending federal lawsuit against Lakeland and Arlington.

The third party claim by the commission that is the remaining part of the lawsuit challenges the existence of the school districts in all six of the county’s suburban towns and cities on the grounds that they violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by racially “resegregating” public schools in Shelby County.

Negotiations are still underway with the four remaining suburban towns and cities – Germantown, Bartlett, Collierville and Millington.

The terms of the agreement with Lakeland involve Lakeland’s board of education paying Shelby County Schools $676,044 over a period of 12 years at $56,337 a year for the one public school within its borders – Lakeland Elementary School.

Arlington’s board of education pays Shelby County Schools $3.9 million over a period of 12 years at $333,333 a year for four schools within its borders – Arlington Elementary, Middle and High Schools as well as Donelson Elementary School.

While the language of both agreements clearly links the amounts of money to the transfer of the school buildings to the suburban school districts, technically the quit claim deeds transfer the property, in each case, for $10.

And the larger amounts paid in the basic agreement of which the quit claim is attached are for Shelby County Schools "to reduce its retiree health and life insurance liabilities incurred as of May 31,2014."

The liabilities are a dollar amount Superintendent Dorsey Hopson has estimated are $28 million extra the school system will have to continue to pay for retirees in its plan even after the suburban school districts are formed and teachers as well as students leave Shelby County Schools.

Shelby County government’s maintenance of effort – the minimum amount of funding it must provide for Shelby County Schools under state law – cannot be reduced because of the money Shelby County Schools is getting from the municipalities.

A bill of sale will cover the items in the five schools involved in the two agreements and there is an agreement for the Arlington and Lakeland school systems to keep any money raised through student activity fees for specific schools at those schools.

If there is a delay in the target date for opening the Arlington and Lakeland school districts next August, the deeds to the school buildings in both towns are not transferred until they open schools at whatever the later date is.

If either school system goes out of business after opening for classes, the school buildings revert back to Shelby County Schools.

The school boards for Arlington and Lakeland which were elected just this month will also have to approve the agreements once those school board members take the oath of office and begin their duties.

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