Cost of municipal school district could be much higher

(WMC-TV) - A Shelby County Commissioner says you are being lied to about the cost of creating a municipal school district. He says the bill is much higher than you have been told.

Commissioner Mike Ritz says the math errors of the recent suburban feasibility studies could be off by hundreds, thousands, or even a million dollars. Those costs could all fall back on suburban tax payers.

Alys Drake is a Germantown parent responding to the recently released number crunching by Shelby County Budget Committee Chairman Ritz.

"Who really knows what's going to happen and how it's going to all shake out or how much it's going to really cost," she said.

In response to the 2012 Southern Education Strategies feasibility studies for six suburban cities, Ritz reported his concerns about the costs for the proposed municipal school districts.

Action News 5 spoke to Ritz by phone.

He compared the feasibility study calculations to that of a train wreck.

"Most of the elected officials in the suburbs do not want to appear to be in front of this railroad train," he said.

Calling his approach brutally conservative, Ritz broke down the SES study into what he calls three main errors:

  • An underestimated cost of other Post-Employment Benefits or OPEB for teachers and other staff.
  • The cost of "leveling up" teacher salaries of the Shelby County School System to that of Memphis City Schools.
  • The cost of special education needs for students which could estimate $100,00 annually.

So Action News 5's Jerica Phillips asked Ritz, "Are you in favor of municipal school districts?"

He responded, "That's a good question. I said I think a year and a half ago that if suburbs want to do this, that's their choice."

Ritz did not answer the question directly but did say his research was done strictly to expose additional concerns.

"I hope what this has done is encourage some citizens and tax payers to ask some questions," he said.

Ritz' analysis also includes shortfalls in the estimated costs of Shelby County school buildings.