VOL. 132 | NO. 252 | Thursday, December 21, 2017
Council Preparing Plan to Provide Pre-K Funding
By Bill Dries
The Memphis City Council has been out of the school funding business for just under a decade.
And there doesn’t seem to be a consensus among council members to change that by committing continuous funding from the city property tax rate, but they are about to meet with Shelby County commissioners, nonprofits, foundations and philanthropy groups about mapping out funding for pre-kindergarten classrooms.
Council members approved a resolution Tuesday, Dec. 19, that declares its intent to work with other partners to increase funding, specifically for pre-K services.
The resolution by council member Kemp Conrad comes as community groups are organizing to come up with at least enough additional revenue to replace federal funds for 1,000 pre-K seats that runs out in 2019.
The resolution doesn’t set a dollar figure or specify how the revenue would be raised.
It comes five years after two attempts at a sales tax hike – countywide and in the city of Memphis – were each voted down by voters in referendums.
Council member Bill Morrison is among those on the council who wants to see a broader effort toward dealing with the effects of poverty on children of all ages.
“Why aren’t we asking for a true fight on poverty?” he said. “This is miniscule. This is nothing. This council over its years has shown that when we back whole change, the city changes direction.”
Morrison said he is not opposed to more pre-K funding, Conrad said he’s not opposed to the broader goals.
But Conrad fears a broader call could be less effective.
“I think we send a message to the other funding bodies … the city is going to be at the table,” he said of the pre-K discussions taking place. “We’d like to know if the policy-making body of the city of Memphis supports this initiative.”
He doesn’t want to consider options that leave a tax increase as the only other alternative.
“If those fail, we have no plan for funding in 2019,” he said of the tax referendums.
Morrison withdrew his amendment to set broader goals beyond pre-kindergarten and pledged to introduce a separate resolution on pursuing those matters.
The decision was one of several made at a shortened Tuesday council session that recessed at about two hours into the meeting to meet again Wednesday afternoon and complete action on a set of gas, water and electric rate hikes proposed by Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division.
Watch this website for details of the Wednesday council decisions.
In other action Tuesday, the council voted down plans by developer Alan Mathis to build 20-25 “luxury condos” in a gated community on 6 acres of open land on Tchulahoma Road near Memphis International Airport.
Neither Mathis nor a representative of Mathis showed up for the council session and were also absent when the Land Use Control Board took up the matter earlier.
The LUCB recommended rejection.
The council normally postpones an item when a land use applicant misses a meeting.
The council also approved a set of eight donations totaling $69,820 for eight sets of SkyCop anti-crime cameras at different locations including the Wolf River Greenway trailhead at Epping Way in Raleigh, New Horizons Apartments, Westminster Academy, the Callis Creek neighborhood, the Regions Bank Cordova/Macon branch, National Guard Products, Olymbec warehouses at Norbrook Drive and East Brooks Road, and Jesus People Church and Worship Center.