The Tennessee Supreme Court’s denial of the City of Memphis’ petition to appeal the Tennessee Court of Appeals’ decision in favor of Memphis City Schools (MCS) in a long-running school funding case leaves the city council with the responsibility to pick up the tab for funding the city’s public schools, says Memphis Daily News. The council has two options to pay the bill: an installment plan or a special tax bill. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said the first item to agree on is how much the city owes. He also indicated all options are on the table with no immediate move to raise taxes canceling out options like budget cuts.
The school system’s general counsel, Dorsey Hopson, said the city owes the district $57.4 million for the 2008-2009 school year. The city began paying another $50 million to MCS earlier this year in a series of payments worked out between the city and the school system. Most of the money came from the city’s reserve fund and it’s unlikely the city will be going back to the reserves again. Wharton previously proposed a one-time-only city property tax increase to pay the school system with a special tax bill that would have gone out soon after. The council voted down the idea even as most on the council knew an end game was approaching after losing at the trial court and appeals court levels.
MCS superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash has outlined an $891.7 million school system operating budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1, 2011. The budget proposal includes $78.2 million in funding from the city, which is 8.7% of the budget total. Several council members have already talked of challenging the amount of city funding which is based on enrollment because they contend the school system’s attendance figures have been inflated in recent years. The council recently approved a resolution sponsored by council member Shea Flinn seeking a city audit of the attendance figures.
Source: Memphis Daily News, 8/27/10, By Bill Dries
[Editor's Note: In January, the Memphis Daily News reported that the Tennessee Court of Appeals had ruled that the City of Memphis owed the MCS $50 million in funding by the end of June. The ruling affirmed an earlier decision from the Chancery Court of Shelby County. A summary of the article is available below.]