Merger could complicate money talks between Memphis, MCS - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Merger could complicate money talks between Memphis, MCS

Memphis City Council member Wanda Halbert Memphis City Council member Wanda Halbert

(WMC-TV) - A new hitch has arisen in the Memphis City Schools funding battle. Memphis City Council Education Committee Chair Wanda Halbert is concerned the Memphis and Shelby County Schools merger has added an unexpected twist to money talks.

"When the school system surrendered its charter back in May, it put the whole funding situation up in the air," Halbert said.

Just before 10:00 a.m. Monday, Halbert sent an e-mail to Memphis City Schools top brass, saying new confusion has arisen over the city's requirement to fund city schools, " light of the fact that MCS has surrendered its charter..."

"If the school system no longer exists, then the overwhelming question is - well, who do we pay if they're asking for new money?" Halbert asked.

Last week, the school board voted to indefinitely delay the start of school unless the city pays them $58 million - the same amount of money the council cut from the school budget back in 2008. The money is still tangled in a court battle.

Halbert said she is perplexed because last week's meeting with school leaders seemed to center on a new funding request for the 2011-2012 school year.

"We need to verify if we can actually help them out with a new, additional amount of money and make sure that we don't bind the citizens of Memphis to paying that same money to the unified school system," she said.

Halbert says Memphis residents should not pay twice as much as county residents when the schools eventually merge.

Memphis City Schools are supposed to begin August 8th. Halbert hopes the council will have answers on the implications of the charter surrender/merger at least one week before to the start of school.

"We're expecting answers before the 2nd because that's when Mayor Wharton and the attorneys are going to hash out the details of whatever assistance we can provide," she said.

Officials at Memphis City Schools claim the city still owes them roughly $148 million. That's after the city sent MCS $3 million last week.

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