Memphis mayor Willie Herenton did his shock-and-awe thing again Tuesday -- proposing a novel school funding arrangement -- or rather the absence of one, since what he suggested was the cessation of the citys annual funding quotient for the Memphis schools.
Since (a) the city council would have to approve the idea; (b) the mayors suggestion was for the fiscal year beginning a year from now; and (c) the amount involved, some $86 million, is roughly a tenth of the city systems total budget., the Herenton proposal wasnt quite the bombshell some wanted to make it. But it certainly was a break with tradition.
And in keeping with this mayors habits, nobody else -- nobody on the council, certainly -- had any advance notice of what Herenton had in mind, though he had let it be known that he planned to make some sort of announcement Tuesday afternoon about school funding.
When Herenton finally unveiled his proposal in the city councils 5th floor meeting room at about 4 oclock Tuesday, many bystanders and some media reps had already absconded -- though those who remained were made to feel like Paul Revere.
The mayor said that his proposed move would impose the sort of single-source funding he has already urged and that, consistent with the state constitution, county government -- the same county government that has been forced, like city government, to hold the line this year on school appropriations -- would become, in effect, that source, for both city and county schools.
The estimated annual savings of $86 million might enable the city to lower its proper tax by as much as 23 cents, the mayor said, or to fund an additional 500 police officiers or to pay for early childhood services not now available, or to do a combination of all these things.
Often in the past, Mayor Herenton has made proposals that sounded astounding at first blush but evarporated as time went on and they werent acted on. This new proposal certainly produced some gasps, but veteran bystanders quickly resumed normal breathing, pending future developments.