Basar: Fairgrounds Likely to Be Tied to Schools Funding

By Bill Dries

Shelby County Commissioner Steve Basar says the commission likely will consider linking an endorsement of the city’s plans for Mid-South Fairgrounds renovation to school funding when it takes up the measure at the Monday, Dec. 8, commission meeting.


Basar commented Friday, Dec. 5, during a taping of the WKNO-TV program “Behind The Headlines.” The program airs Friday at 7 p.m. on WKNO and again at 7:30 p.m. on WKNO2.

Commissioner David Reaves, last month, proposed tying a plan for the city to at least begin paying $57 million in funding to Shelby County Schools won in a court fight to another resolution. The commission passed the resolution and Reaves served notice that he would probably make giving the commission’s blessings to the Fairgrounds project contingent on that as well.

The payment is a judgment in a civil lawsuit filed by Shelby County Schools over the Memphis City Council’s decision to cut school funding in 2008. The payment has been held up because of the city’s counterclaim against the school system.

Basar has been the most vocal critic of the city’s plan to finance the Fairgrounds project with sales tax revenue captured in a tourism development zone that still requires state approval.

One of his problems has been his belief and that of the administration of County Mayor Mark Luttrell that the sales tax revenue to be captured would include the share that goes to local public schools. Wharton and his administration have denied that will be the case.

The agreement the commission votes on Monday is a pledge by the city to make up any sales tax revenue for education that might be lost in the tourism development zone.

On the other hand, Basar said Friday the project has garnered more vocal support lately from the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau as well as Midtown developers Bob Loeb and Charlie Ryan.

Basar, however, still has his doubts about how well thought out the plan is by the administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.

And Basar said if the project moves ahead he would like to see the development drop the Fairgrounds name and be called “Tiger Town.”