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VOL. 6 | NO. 48 | Saturday, November 23, 2013

Millington Schools Pact Makes Fifth So Far

By Bill Dries

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Millington leaders and Shelby County Schools officials reached tentative agreement Friday, Nov. 22, on a plan that includes the transfer of four school buildings in Millington to the still forming Millington municipal schools system.

Millington would pay Shelby County Schools $2.7 million over 12 years at $230,219 a year.

And Millington would be dropped as a defendant in the Shelby County Commission’s third party claim challenging the existence of the suburban school districts.

The agreement differs from the other tentative agreements with Lakeland, Collierville, Bartlett and Arlington because Shelby County Schools would retain a public school within Millington’s city limits, Lucy Elementary School, as part of its school system.

Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson has recommended Lucy remain in the school system as well as Germantown Elementary, Middle and High Schools. Hopson recommended the school system retain the schools to educate children in unincorporated Shelby County and avoid the school system seeking funding from county government to build new schools should a suburban school system not have room for the students in its municipal school district.

Hopson also raised legal issues with students outside the borders of any of Shelby County’s seven cities and towns attending a school district governed by a board that their parents have no elected representation on.

The tentative agreement with Millington leaves only the set of talks involving Germantown leaders as the only discussion in which no agreement has been reached so far.

Word of the Millington agreement came just hours after the Shelby County Commission met in special session to approve the tentative agreements with Arlington and Lakeland.

With commissioners Walter Bailey and Wyatt Bunker absent, commissioner Henri Brooks was the only “no” vote on the Arlington agreement. She abstained in the vote on the Lakeland agreement.

Bunker, who is also mayor of Lakeland, agreed to abstain from a legal briefing commissioners got on Monday as the first of the agreements became public. A county attorney’s opinion held it was a conflict for Bunker to attend and vote on the matter as a commissioner while also serving as mayor of Lakeland. Bunker disagrees with the legal opinion but said he sat out the meeting “as a courtesy.”

Lori Patterson, the commission’s attorney in the Memphis Federal Court third party action filed by the commission on suburban schools, told commissioners that the agreement does not affect the rural school bonds used by the county to build Arlington High School. Shelby County taxpayers outside the city of Memphis will continue to pay a county property tax rate that is four cents higher than the county rate paid by those inside Memphis specifically to retire the bonds on the high school.

The commission also amended both agreements with wording on the bond covenant on the county’s outstanding bond debt for new school construction and renovation in general. The amendment doesn’t change the agreement nor how the debt is paid and by who, Patterson said.

City officials in Lakeland and Arlington agree to honor the covenant in writing and thereby preserves the tax exempt status of the bonds. City officials in both towns agreed to the amendment through their attorneys in the matter.

The commission has scheduled another special meeting for Dec. 2 at 1 p.m. to vote on the Collierville and Bartlett pacts and possibly Millington. Commissioners set a deadline of noon Nov. 29 to get the documents for consideration.

Shelby County Schools board members scheduled a meeting for Tues., Nov. 26, to vote on the Millington, Collierville and Bartlett agreements. They approved the Lakeland and Arlington agreements this past Tuesday.

None of the agreements have been approved by any of the suburban school boards because the school board members elected Nov. 7 do not take office until next month. Once they take their oaths of office, the agreements are expected to be among the first orders of business for them.

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