Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Med/School Funding Swap Off

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2010 at 2:22 PM

The option of trading funding for the Regional Medical Center and Memphis City Schools between Shelby County and Memphis City governments is off the table.

After learning that the Med needed roughly $30 million in annual funding locally, some city council members wanted to take over the Med funding in exchange for the county taking over the city's "maintenance of effort" obligation to the city schools. The switch, in the long-term, was supposed to alleviate double taxation for city residents.

But the obstacles proved too large.

"The biggest problem is the Med problem: For any sort of interlocal agreement to work, the Med would have to remain an ongoing concern for many years," Flinn said. "With what's going on with the state and the federal government, I don't think we can go forward with confidence."

"If they don't get that $52 million [in state funding cuts], the Med cannot be saved. It would be bad faith to go forward with an agreement of this type," he said.

The other problem focused on the ADA funding formula for schools, which mandates that for roughly every dollar the county gives to the county schools, it must give $3 to the city schools, and vice versa. Under that scenario, picking up the city's obligation to the city schools could mean increasing the total education payoff by a third.

The council is set to discuss education funding in full chambers later this afternoon.

The current proposal on the table would give the city schools $30 million out of the city reserves, $10 million out of budget cuts, and $10 million in debt forgiveness. But, as noted by member Barbara Swearengen Ware, the Memphis City Schools board recently rejected a similar proposal that would give the schools $28 million out of the reserves, $10 million in city budget cuts, and $12 million in debt forgiveness.

"For us to continue to vote on something that's already been rejected flies in the face of what the court has told us to do," Ware said. "If they rejected the soup while it was hot, they're certainly going to reject it after it's been warmed over."

Other council members suggested that the proposal previously approved by the council was contingent on the school board's approval. The plan currently on the table is not.

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