Battle over school property transfer ensues - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Battle over school property transfer ensues

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(WMC-TV) - The Shelby County municipal schools battle will turn to the issue of school buildings this week. A school board committee will discuss who owns the current buildings in the county's six suburbs.

School merger supporters say if the suburbs do not want to join the Shelby County school system, they should have to buy the school buildings.

Suburban leaders argue that would be a break from tradition.

With plans forging ahead to create six new Shelby County school systems, an ongoing debate could soon get a full public airing: will those six suburbs have to buy the school buildings within their borders?

"We'll probably have some litigation in that regard," said Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald.

County commissioners, who are still fighting in court to stop the new schools, say they will have to pay to play.

Suburban mayors say the 1898 Prescott versus the Town of Lennox case supports the free transfer of public school buildings.

"In that, the courts ruled the buildings are held in trust for the children," said Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner.

But a 2011 county attorney opinion says, "The Shelby County Board of Education owns and controls assets and buildings of Shelby County Schools."

Suburban mayors say the school buildings transferred free in past annexations also support their case.

Commissioners say that does not apply because paying for annexed schools would have double-billed Memphis taxpayers.

"There was a longstanding agreement that when Memphis annexed property, there'd be no consideration on payment made," said Shelby County commissioner Mike Ritz.

Unless this goes to court, the Shelby County School Board may have to resolve on this matter.

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