Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Memphis City Council Won't Yet Bow Out of Schools Litigation

Posted By on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 11:51 AM

A deal that would have ended the city of Memphis’ involvement in the ongoing litigation concerning Shelby County and suburban municipal schools was tabled by a Memphis City Council committee Tuesday until January.

Council members wanted to wait until after the December deadline for the suburban cities and the county to reach a final agreement ordered by U.S. Judge Samuel Mays.

Lee Harris
  • Lee Harris
Council member Lee Harris brought the committee the resolution that would have immediately ended the city’s involvement in the ongoing litigation. He said legal fees in associated with the case have been mounting. He cited media reports on the matter noting he was not privy to the day-to-day bills involved in the case.

“Months ago we were close on an agreement and now we’re close but not much has changed,” Harris said. “These things seem to never wind down and won’t unless action is taken on the council.”
Allan Wade is the city council’s attorney has been handling the case for the city. He said the city’s spending on the case compared to the county’s was like a “gnat to an elephant.”

“Contrary to what Mr. Harris believes, we’re not here to drag (cases) out,” Wade said. “We win them or we lose them and then we go on. I’m not here to run up a bill.”
Council members Shea Flinn and Harold Collins agreed that the city needs to remain involved in the process as negotiations continue on the ownership of three schools between Shelby County Schools and the city of Germantown.

“I think our interest in those buildings are critical and if we don’t have an agreement with Germantown, we need to wait until that part of the deal hashes out,” Collins said.

Flinn explained that the schools were built primarily with the financial support of Memphis taxpayers and giving them up may have tax liabilities for the city’s taxpayers in the future.

Germantown officials have said they want the schools even if many of the students that would go there would live outside the municipal boundaries of the city. But Flinn worried that Germantown taxpayers would want to limit the schools to only Germantown students in the future if they had to pay higher taxes to educate those students who lived outside the city.

If that were the case, SCS could have to build new schools for those displaced students, a project that could cost taxpayers in Memphians and Shelby County millions, Flinn said.

“That’s the sticky wicket at the heart of this,” Flinn said. The present need and the future need are very different and there are huge associated with it.”

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