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VOL. 129 | NO. 93 | Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Commission Approves Compromise $52.1 Million in Schools Capital Funding

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners approved Monday, May 12, an immediate infusion of $52.1 million in capital funding for Shelby County Schools and the six suburban school systems.

The compromise resolution worked out with leaders of the suburban school systems includes $4.8 million in capital projects at five of the six suburban school systems. It also keeps the $47.3 million in capital projects for Shelby County Schools a majority on the commission recommended in committee sessions last week. The Shelby County Schools list includes a new roof for Millington Central High School which is in the sixth of the six suburban school systems.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell had proposed $16.9 million in capital funding for Shelby County Schools, a proposal the commission rejected in committee.

The dollar total of the resolution approved Monday is more than the $50 million cap Luttrell and his administration had suggested spending on schools capital needs out of a total of $75 million in capital funding for all of county government. The larger amount for all capital funding is part of county government’s debt policy.

But county Chief Administrative Officer Harvey Kennedy told commissioners and schools officials Monday that the administration could work with the $52.1 million amount approved and adjust the rest of the capital spending accordingly.

Shelby County government has not provided any capital funding for schools in the current fiscal year and the year before because of the historic transition of public education in Shelby County from two school systems to one merged school district and, starting with the new school year in August, seven public school systems within the county.

But $55 million in capital funding for schools was set aside by county government.

And commissioners were surprised to learn that the $5 million they approved in March for the last piece of public financing of the Crosstown redevelopment project came from the $55 million set aside for schools capital needs. Several said Monday they would have voted against the Crosstown funding had they known. Other commissioners argued that there had been no call for schools capital funding in March.

Shelby County Schools leaders wanted the capital funding before the end of the current fiscal year to avoid having to split such funding with the suburban school systems proportionately based on average daily attendance for each school system.

SCS leaders and attorneys for county government believed that legally there didn’t have to be an ADA split before June 30. But attorneys for all six suburban school systems issued their own legal opinion reflecting their belief that it did have to be split based on average daily attendance.

The compromise funding package approved Monday avoids a possible lawsuit by the suburban schools on the point even though it isn’t a proportionate split.

The suburban schools projects aside from the new roof for the Millington High gym include:

Reroofing Rivercrest Elementary in Bartlett for $990,000.

Painting Arlington High School and reroofing the gym there for $422,000.

Reroofing the kitchen and cafeteria at Arlington Elementary School as well as replacing heating and air conditioning at the school for a total of $428,000.

Reroofing Collierville High School for $1 million.

Window replacements at Farmington Elementary School in Germantown for $975,000.

Reroofing and replacing 83 HVAC units at Lakeland Elementary for $990,000.

In other action, the commission approved a $1.7 million contract for a new roof on the county government building at 1075 Mullins Station Road after a roiling debate among commissioners about whether the contractor on the job meets guidelines for minority hiring with a workforce that is majority Hispanic instead of African-American.

A vote on the contract with B Four Plied Inc. was delayed twice because of the same discussions.

The commission did not vote on a planned development by First Citizens Bank at Austin Peay Highway and Millington-Arlington Road because the commission was forced to adjourn for lack of a quorum before it could call the item to a vote.

It will be back on the agenda for a commission vote at the body's June 2 meeting.

It takes seven of the 13 commissioners to constitute a quorum in order to hold a voting meeting. The commission, which had 12 of its 13 members present at the beginning of the session, lost its quorum after a lengthy debate about approving the tax sale of an apartment complex at 2238 Howell Avenue in North Memphis for $150,000.

The leader of the nonprofit that lost the property in the tax sale had wanted to speak to the commission before the vote but chairman James Harvey said he lost the card she filled out to speak.

She spoke in tears after the commission and commissioner Justin Ford unsuccessfully moved to reconsider the decision. That’s when the commission’s quorum was lost.

Commissioner Heidi Shafer, who left for a conference call with leaders of the local fire fighters union just before Ford’s reconsideration motion, said she is exploring a possible reconsideration of the item at the next commission meeting.

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