County commissioner says property tax increase likely for municipal school districts

(WMC-TV) - A Shelby County commissioner had some strong words regarding the Memphis City/Shelby county schools merger and the possibility of smaller school districts throughout the county.

During a town hall meeting, Commissioner Mike Ritz warned Bartlett residents of a big property tax increase should they decide to create their own school district.

"Bartlett's in a peculiar position in that they have a sales tax, but they're still gonna have to probably increase their property tax considerably, in my opinion, in order to fund their school system," says Ritz.

Shelby County commissioner Mike Ritz says Memphis suburbs like Bartlett may face big tax increases should residents there decide to start their own school district.

"This is very conservative, it'll probably be more than this, but it would be a $1.31 property tax increase, which is about 91 percent," Ritz adds.

In all, there would be eleven schools in Bartlett's proposed district.

But Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald says Ritz's numbers couldn't be more inaccurate.

"We're not proposing a property tax increase right now. We're just saying that if they'll vote for the half cent sales tax increase, that'll be enough money to run the schools, at least for the next few years," says Mayor McDonald.

McDonald says a half cent sales tax increase would generate Bartlett around three point six million dollars.

He estimates it would only cost one point eight million to run the new school system there.

"The idea that there's gonna be a 10% inflationary increase...we believe we can run a school system cheaper than what they're running and get a better product," says McDonald.

Mike Ritz says Bartlett and other municipalities should be honest with residents up front by telling them what it would cost to run a school system.

"There are probably a lot of elderly people on a fixed income who would want to know that their property tax increases are before they go to the polls," Ritz says.

Commissioner Ritz says he's done studies on the cost for each municipality to create its own school district.

He says most of them are likely to face a property tax increase.

He says Arlington, for instance, would take the biggest hit, going from a one dollar to eight dollar property tax rate.

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