City funding of school system could be on the chopping block - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andrew Douglas

City funding of school system could be on the chopping block

Much of the talk last week in Memphis was about a 17 percent property tax hike proposed by Mayor Willie Herenton. The mayor's new budget also included shutting down some libraries and community centers.

Monday night, the talk among Memphis City Council members was a property tax cut, with the city's funding of the school system on the chopping block.

Since 1937 the city of Memphis has funded it's city schools.  In fact, this coming year about $80-$90 million, mainly from property taxes, would be earmarked for Memphis City Schools, making up about 7-8 percent of its $1.2 billion budget.

But at Monday's budget hearings, talk of eliminating that funding came up rather quickly.

"We have a lot of people dealing with a lot of housing problems. We have a huge property tax increase staring us in the face and this would enable us to get a property tax decrease," council member Shea Flinn said.

A decrease that some city council members insisted would not affect student education.

"We think we're taking away from the bureaucracy. We think we are taking money away from an overblown infrastructures of the city schools that simply needs to trim their fat. This will not in any way affect the children," council member Bill Morrison said.

"We just had an audit down in our district," school board member Stephanie Gatewood said.

Gatewood said she would research the issue to see what can work for the year ahead.

"I'd want to see the audit," Gatewood said. "I'd want to see where we are going. Do we have the policies that we would put forth to ensure that we are running a lean machine?"

It is an issue gaining more attention as city leaders try to cut the budget.

Click here to e-mail Andrew Douglas.

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