Battle brewing over free school buildings for suburbs - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Battle brewing over free school buildings for suburbs

There's a lingering question about the fate of existing school buildings in the midst of suburban cities' interest in starting their own education districts. There's a lingering question about the fate of existing school buildings in the midst of suburban cities' interest in starting their own education districts.

(WMC-TV) – There's a lingering question about the fate of existing school buildings in the midst of suburban cities' interest in starting their own education districts. The company doing studies for the suburbs says they have a legal right to the buildings at no cost, but not everyone agrees.

The results are in about if and how cities like Germantown can create their own school districts. The consulting firm says the buildings should be free, but some tax payers aren't so sure.

"It's not our job to speculate on what might happen if there's a fight," said consultant James Mitchell, of Southern Educational Strategies.

Mitchell said the law is clear about who can use school buildings if municipal systems are formed.

"The weight of legal authority says that the school buildings are held in trust for the community," he said. "That's the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling."

The key word is "community" and how it's defined.

Unified School Board member Martavious Jones said the buildings are public property paid for by all Shelby County residents, not those of individual cities.

"Something for the public good is not for the exclusive good of a community, be it Germantown, Collierville or Bartlett," he said.

Jones said if a municipal system attempts to acquire current Memphis and Shelby County school facilities without proper reimbursement, he's prepared for battle.

"I will fight it in the capacity of a tax paying resident of the City of Memphis," he said.

While Mitchell maintains that his data is unbiased in showing that cities like Germantown meet the legal thresholds to establish independent schools districts, Jones contests those findings and suggests the consultants are merely catering to their customers.

"A consultant is paid," he said. "In my opinion, is paid to favor the view of whatever or whoever is paying them their fee for providing the consulting services."

Bartlett will get the results of its study Wednesday night and Collierville will receive its results Thursday. The same consultant did the studies for each town.

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

Read the studies

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Click here to read Bartlett's municipal school district study.Click here to read Collierville's municipal school district study. More>>

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