'Rural school bond' latest wrinkle in schools battle - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

'Rural school bond' latest wrinkle in schools battle

(WMC-TV) - With six suburbs starting their own schools to avoid merging with Memphis schools, the battle is in high gear over who owns the school buildings in the suburbs.

"It's got me hot under the collars," Shelby County Board of Commissioners member Wyatt Bunker said.

An old controversy collided with a new one at the County Commission's latest budget meeting: the rural school bond.

Commissioners made sure everyone took note of the extra four-cents the suburbs pay on the county property tax rate. The suburban property tax rate is $4.06, versus $4.02 in Memphis.

That four cents is called the Rural School Bond.

"We have a unified school system. Why don't we have a unified tax rate?" Bunker asked.

Bunker was on the county school board in 2003, when the bond was approved to fund construction of Arlington High.

Back then, for every one dollar spent in the county, three had to be spent in Memphis.

The County Commission agreed not to spend the money on Memphis schools, when they built Arlington High.

Instead, they collected the "Rural School Bond" tax from the suburbs for the 29 million dollar project.

That old controversy resurfaced in the fight over who now owns Arlington High.

"Nobody in Memphis paid on that school," commissioner Terry Roland said.

"Now that the boundaries of the school system incorporate the entire county, wouldn't everyone share in that tax?" Bunker asked.

"There's not any provision in state law that would allow you to spread that out countywide," Shelby County Attorney Kelly Raines said.

"You're targeting one part of the population to pay for their schools and the other schools in the other parts of the community, and the other part of the community just pays for their own schools," Bunker said.

Bunker says a lawsuit could follow this latest rift.

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