School funding debate could be on November ballot

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The Memphis City Council may soon bring the school funding debate to city voters.  Tuesday, council members considered adding a question on the matter to the November ballot.

Council members want the voters to decide if residents should be taxed to pay for city schools.

"They're being taxed an extra 88 cents for the city," Council Chairman Harold Collins said.

Collins, along with council member Wanda Halbert, said it's not about paying for schools.  Rather, they claim Memphians are double-taxed while public schools in other cities are funded by their county governments.

"I am for funding Memphis City Schools," Halbert said. "I am not for the state mandating only to Memphis and no other city that they be required to fund their public school system."

The Memphis City Schools administration and Board of Commissioners sued the city of Memphis to decide the city's responsibility.  That court battle is still underway.

If the full council agrees, this question would be placed on the November ballot:

Shall the authority of the City, if any, to levy a school tax against Memphis taxpayers for the  Memphis City Schools or to provide funding for the Memphis City Schools be abolished?"
FOR: Yes

"If they tell us that they want to continue to pay an extra 88 cents on their property value for Memphis City Schools, we'll drop the lawsuit," Collins said.

But, he added, if residents keep paying twice for public schools, the council may be forced to make cuts in services or raise taxes.

Meanwhile Tuesday, council member Shea Flinn called for an audit of Memphis City Schools' financials, saying he wants to see the school system's needs on paper.

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