Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. nominated eight people Monday, Sept. 23, to serve on the board of a pre-kindergarten trust fund that would be established if city voters approve a half-cent sales tax hike in November.
The eight nominations go to the Memphis City Council for confirmation and would put the board in place before voters go to the polls for the expected Nov. 21 referendum.
Wharton’s nominees are: First Baptist-Broad pastor and Memphis branch NAACP president Keith Norman; University of Memphis president Brad Martin; Dr. Reginald Coopwood, CEO of The Regional Medical Center at Memphis; retired Memphis City Schools principal and administrator Elsie Bailey; Barbara Holden Nixon of the Urban Child Institute; musician Kirk Whalum, who is president and CEO of Stax Music Academy and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music; Barbara Hyde, president of the Hyde Family Foundations; and Kathy Buckman Gibson, chairman of Buckman Laboratories International Inc.
The board would govern the use of the trust fund for a pre-K expansion in the city of Memphis. The fund would be an estimated $30 million of the $47 million in revenue the extra half cent on the city sales tax in expected to generate. The remainder of the revenue is to be used to roll back the city property tax rate under terms of the referendum as well.
Meanwhile, countywide school board member David Reaves said Monday he will not pursue his earlier call for a countywide sales tax hike referendum that would preempt the city referendum.
Reaves originally urged the school board to consider a countywide sales tax hike as part of the school system’s consideration of bidding to take over the Head Start program now run by Shelby County government.
But Reaves said Monday that such a sales tax hike would affect the county’s six suburban towns and cities, “which I do not support.”
“I thought originally that it would be applied only to Memphis and unincorporated areas,” Reaves added in an e-mail. “We can bid on the pre-K program that Memphis decides to fund if its referendum passes.”
Reaves made the initial suggestion as the school system considers making a bid to take over the $23 million federally funded Head Start contract now administered by Shelby County government.
The Shelby County Commission approved Monday a resolution urging the school system to apply to the federal department of Health and Human Services by Oct. 22 for the contract. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has said his administration wants to see another entity take on the Head Start program and expand it to more children as well as bring in private funding to go with the federal funding.
He has specifically suggested the school system apply.
Luttrell told commissioners his administration is preparing an application to renew its role as administrator but will wait on submitting it to see who else might apply.
Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson has talked with Luttrell about the school system applying. Hopson first mentioned the possibility publicly to school board members last week. The school board has taken no action yet.